How to enhance federal CX and restore trust in government

All agencies will see impactful results by embedding human-centered design principles in their IT modernization projects. Comprehensive collaboration between pr...

To improve public interactions with the government, the current administration has made improving customer experience — particularly through advancing digital technologies — a foundational priority.  

 Despite these initiatives, such as the President’s Management Agenda, the Office of Management and Budget’s Life Experiences projects, and the Customer Experience (CX) Executive Order, customer satisfaction with the federal government remains low.  

 A recent study from the Partnership for Public Service found that only 35% of Americans trust the federal government, and 73% believe the federal government does not listen to the public. Given these findings, it will be paramount for all IT modernization projects to be founded in human-centered design (HCD). 

 HCD principles, which account for user feedback in all stages of the design, development and implementation process, enable technologists to build and deliver trustworthy, accessible services for all Americans. When feedback is continually captured and used to inform design, IT leaders can align their digital government services to public needs and expectations, helping the public feel their voices are heard and understood.  

 Human-centered design at the foundation  

 One strategic IT upgrade agencies can make to enhance public interactions with the government is implementing digital and omnichannel services. Omnichannel services provide a consistent experience for constituents across all platforms and devices — effectively meeting citizens where they are and delivering the information they need.  

 When implementing or expanding omnichannel services, it’s essential to design systems with users in mind. The goal is to deliver seamless connections between different touchpoints to streamline public interactions with agencies. Journey maps illustrate the user’s progress across touchpoints. By building a journey map, agency IT staff can identify pain points during the interaction, enabling them to better empathize with users and ultimately improve the total experience.  

 Agencies can use a service blueprint when designing and optimizing digital services to document the full scope of an engagement. Service blueprints add a layer of detail by depicting integral backstage processes in addition to the user’s interactions with touchpoints. For instance, when someone completes an online form, the internal systems and workflows are required to process the user’s information. If the user-facing steps do not align with an organization’s internal procedures, it may cause disconnects, inefficiencies, delays and frustration.      

 These techniques were valuable when they were needed most. Amid questions and uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was under enormous pressure to communicate health information in an accurate, timely and clear manner. Designing and developing an omnichannel service strategy with the CDC required a nimble, scalable solution to provide answers to the public. In this instance, it was imperative the public be able to engage with the CDC on their preferred channel, such as SMS text and WhatsApp messages and notifications.  

 Accessibility was also paramount, so CDC utilized multi-lingual language services, and digital and intelligent voice assisted COVID-19 test kit ordering. These services were designed to account for people’s everyday experiences, as well as considering those who might have limited access to digital communication. By employing data and human-centered design methods, CDC effectively evolved its services based on the public’s needs and enhanced its content strategy to provide clear information using plain language and tailored communications.  

 For government agencies serving millions of Americans to understand and contextualize citizen needs at scale, a data-analytics solution is necessary. 

 Capitalize on data with AI to improve efficiency  

 Data-driven insights, from the individual level to population-wide trends, can help illuminate solutions to key CX challenges. When working to optimize available data, there are three crucial considerations to keep in mind: How to compare the data and metrics to the desired outcome, how to ensure that the use of data is compliant and secure, and how to maximize interoperability.  

 Data management structures that account for these three factors empower agencies to successfully share information and seamlessly serve citizens who require assistance from multiple agencies.  

 Due to the volume of data compiled by federal agencies, AI is a valuable tool to glean actionable insights from the troves of information. This effectively empowers federal employees to make informed decisions quickly, so issues are resolved promptly, and citizens will feel their time and concerns are valued. Notably, it is important for agencies to ensure visibility, prioritize equity, and include human oversight when implementing AI-driven technology.  

 As more citizens engage with agencies via digital channels, AI-empowered self-service options can expedite processes. However, it’s important to retain human representatives to address complex requests and ensure empathetic service delivery. For instance, the IRS often uses AI solutions to address calls with no tax issues, so the tax-related calls can be resolved faster by IRS agents. Streamlining business processes with call and screen recordings, data analytics, and AI has effectively enhanced the agency’s framework for actionable business and operations insights.  

 Looking ahead: People, process and technology 

 All agencies will see impactful results by embedding human-centered design principles in their IT modernization projects. Comprehensive collaboration between programmers, IT management staff, CX designers, trusted industry partners and government program owners is paramount for any successful CX initiative.  

 An empathetic, collaborative mindset is paramount to improve citizen service and address the current lack of trust people have in federal agencies. Omnichannel capabilities, advanced data analytics and AI-driven self-service solutions are some of the many innovative tools used to inform service improvement and ultimately improve trust and satisfaction, but the outcome of these implementations must include HCD from the inception of the concept to the development of services, testing of solutions, to deploying and ongoing measurement and improvement of government services.   

MaryAnn Monroe is vice president of total experience at Maximus. 

Copyright © 2024 Federal News Network. All rights reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Related Stories

    Amelia Brust/Federal News Networkcustomer experience

    OMB seeks to ‘build trust’ in government services, speed up CX expert hiring across agencies

    Read more

    CX Exchange 2023: Maximus’ MaryAnn Monroe on why good employee CX starts before Day 1

    Read more