Why agencies need to invest in improving life experiences and how to get started

Building on years of efforts across administrations to enhance the federal agency customer experience, President Biden has signaled a clear call to action to ag...

Building on years of efforts across administrations to enhance the federal agency customer experience, President Biden has signaled a clear call to action to agencies. The goal: To reimagine how government services are provided to ensure it is of the people, by the people and for the people. Formalizing this support came in the form of the administration’s executive order on customer experience (CX) and the President’s Management Agenda, which includes “delivering excellent, equitable and secure federal services and customer experience” as a top priority. Now the White House is doubling down on these initiatives by allocating $500 million towards hard wiring the customer experience within federal agencies.

One of the objectives of this investment is to advance the administration’s life experiences projects, which are designed to streamline the delivery of federal services at key milestones in individuals’ lives, including when having a child, living through a natural disaster, transitioning from the military, approaching retirement and experiencing a financial shock. The original list of life experiences projects recently expanded from nine to include an additional two, another signal from the most senior levels of government of the importance of coordinating efforts to support Americans through these life events.

From a siloed approach to CX to a cross-agency approach

When multiple agencies are responsible for providing services for a certain life milestone because they’re organized as separate entities, silos often exist that make it organizationally harder for individuals to get the help they need.

For instance, when a service member transitions from the military, the various agencies involved, including the departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, Education and Labor, as well as the Small Business Administration, usually focus on the experience they’re providing. For the servicemember, however, all of these pieces make up one collective moment in their life journey. One that’s often difficult to navigate.

The Office of Management and Budget has referred to this friction in the government customer experience journey as an administrative burden that exacerbates inequity, and it’s a burden that shouldn’t exist.

To address the root cause of this problem and make sure benefits and services for a particular life experience are provided to all in an effective, easy and emotionally resonant way, government leaders need to continue to evolve the thinking to a cross agency perspective. They need to transition from thinking about the customer experience at the individual agency level to looking more holistically at the experience of these life stages across agencies. That requires adopting an outside-in perspective versus an inside-out perspective. That involves shifting from the government’s lens to the individual American’s lens.

Unlocking the power of listening to personalize, optimize and orchestrate life experiences across agencies

First, agencies need to look at the full spectrum of data, tools, engagement and technology that can enable the channels of service, including contact centers and digital insights engines, to capture real-time and actionable feedback — the right insights, at the right time — to do right by the American people. These kinds of tools should be leveraged to:

  • Measure the level of trust Americans have in a given agency using direct and indirect feedback across operations.
  • Assess the customer experience during every single interaction to improve these moments and transactions.
  • Understand how customers feel across the customer journey, evaluating customer sentiment and specific needs during contact center calls and when navigating a federal website for service recovery and performance improvement.

The next frontier, the future of the government customer experience, involves agencies joining forces and sharing secure data and resources. These can be utilized to create unified, holistic and authoritative civilian profiles that provide a clear picture of each individual American’s entire government experience and journey. The power of these profiles is in being able to personalize, optimize and orchestrate experiences across agencies.

For instance, right now when a natural disaster strikes, the onus is on individuals to navigate the complex process of reaching out to various agencies for support. With the right technology, processes and policies in place, however, that experience could be streamlined with the creation of one central contact center hotline and digital portal. This would reduce points of friction along the journey, and this is possible not just for this life experience but for any life experience.

Beyond investing in the right technology, agencies need to ensure the right training, policies and resources are in place. Layering technology on top of flawed processes isn’t likely to result in meaningful change. Adopting new tools without taking the customer and employee experience into consideration could even increase the burden for government employees and the people they serve.

That’s why it’s important to approach change from a human-centered perspective and reimagine existing processes and systems based on what customers and employees need. Agencies that adopt human-centered practices ensure they talk to all stakeholders, ask employees and those they serve the right questions, listen, and use these insights to drive innovations. This is not a research activity. These agencies have a deliberate and continuous customer and employee experience feedback collection strategy that is operationalized and hardwired across all of its mission areas to ensure the greatest impact and outcome to those they serve.

Moving forward

Improving the government customer experience isn’t easy. It is hard work that has taken many years over multiple administrations to get to this point, and this type of commitment to improve the customer experience is something that every American should be very proud of seeing. It’s a process that requires culture change and adapting processes, policies and systems, but the journey is worth it. We are already seeing results. Cross-agency collaboration around CX initiatives has the potential to improve life experiences for the American people. Working together to enable these life experiences will also help agencies achieve their individual missions more effectively, foster trust, maximize taxpayers’ dollars, improve employee effectiveness and engagement, and will continue to be a source of pride for all those that are on this journey to improving the government customer experience for all Americans.

Lee Becker is senior vice president and general manager of public sector and healthcare at Medallia.

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