Sequencing the customer experience approach

The goal of CX is to garner customer feedback and emotions, not to develop more barriers and cumbersome protocols. The last thing organizations want to do is ha...

Customer Experience Management (CX) leverages the power of human centered design (HCD), agile development and innovation strategies to make life better for people. The past decade of hard work bringing CX to public sector organizations has demonstrated that a customer-focused approach delivers the most effective government policies, programs and services to the people they are designed to serve.

That’s why the president’s Executive Order has mandated that agencies adopt the CX approach in their strategy and operations, stating that “the government’s primary mission is to serve. By placing people at the center of everything we do, the government will be able to deliver timely, modern and secure services to you — the people.”

Supported by the EO, agency leaders have the opportunity not just to achieve compliance, but to use CX methods and tools to accelerate momentum toward improved performance. In the private sector, CX has long been embraced as mission critical. A bad customer experience can lead to poor business outcomes: less brand loyalty and more resources spent managing reputation instead of investing in innovation.

For government, there is even more at stake. Poor experiences with agencies lead to poor trust in government, ultimately putting democratic institutions at risk. While trust in government has declined steeply over the past 20 years, the CX movement is setting out to rebuild that trust by changing the experiences people have interacting with their government. Based on Qualtrics’ experiences supporting hundreds of governments around the world, we have found there are three key actions that can launch CX in government organizations.

Understand what people are actually experiencing

Mission-focused public servants have a bias for action out of their desire to serve. The drawback of this is a potential to jump directly to solving the problem before fully understanding it. To control for this, it’s essential to start any CX initiative by measuring customers’ current experiences with and attitudes about the policies, programs and services government organizations are delivering. Taking the time to uncover the drivers of these experiences and attitudes will reap significant returns in future designs that deliver better, more efficient results.

Connecting teams to the voices of their customers consistently produces an immediate, positive impact on their focus and energy. Professionals join governments to serve the public. All too often, public servants feel disconnected from their customers due to the rules, processes and requirements that they have to manage. Bringing the customer’s voice, in the form of qualitative data visualized in actionable formats, to employees’ desktops reconnects them with their mission orientation and passion for service. This moment opens opportunities for leaders to spark the CX movement by equipping, enabling and empowering their teams with tools, skills and understanding of CX and human experience strategies. In other words, this is when employees catch the vision so organizations can accelerate their CX maturity.

Organizational leaders need to avoid the pitfall of spending too much time on the front end developing top-down governance mechanisms intended to drive CX across agencies. Instead, organizations should embrace the challenge of staying human-centered right from the start:  Instead of worrying about “who is in charge,” keep the organization’s focus on “what is the current experience?” The goal of CX is to garner customer feedback and emotions, not to develop more barriers and cumbersome protocols. The last thing organizations want to do is have their progress stalled by bureaucracy. Staying focused on experience and data helps agencies create a comprehensive baseline of CX solutions and build the agility to keep iterating solutions as the world changes — and their customers with it.

Take data-driven action

Combining CX and operations data in a single location allows leaders and employees to see how traditional measurements of success — such as program outcomes and budget efficiencies — improve when attention is placed on experience. Examining the interactions between individuals and an organization can uncover targeted pain points to address. As customers’ experiences and an agency’s performance improves, opportunities for deeper engagement with the people it serves will begin to open, leading to innovations in policy, program and service design.

In particular, emotional reactions and feedback within CX data are critical to understanding the true feelings of customers and achieving lasting success with the CX approach. By creating positive experiences for the people they serve, government organizations can improve the human experience and build back trust in government.

Connection is the basis of success

The EO from President Joe Biden is a call for action on CX, and the good news is that this movement is already underway within multiple federal agencies. Thanks to over a decade of work by entities like the Innovation Lab at the Office of Personnel Management, 18F and the U.S. Digital Service (USDS), HCD is taking hold across the federal arena. So when it comes to implementing CX strategies in government, you are not alone! Connect with these teams for support to gain additional understanding around what strategies have worked in the past. And look for other teams — within your own organization, or across the federal enterprise — that have already solved for some of the early challenges you may encounter. Gathering their insights can help you leverage past experiences as a kick-starter for your own CX efforts.

The CX movement in government offers the possibility of a new relationship between community members and the organizations that serve them. When organizations listen to people through their entire journey of interaction, leaders and employees gain the ability to reduce risk, speed up timelines, and enhance overall performance. In order to sustain this momentum, government leaders must adopt the people-centered mindset that the discipline of CX requires. Building a powerful CX strategy can make your organization an even more proactive and forward-thinking center of service that acts on feedback and fosters customer trust.

Sydney Heimbrock is a former OPM executive and the current chief industry advisory for government at Qualtrics.

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