Insight by Maximus

What needs to be next for CX in the federal government?

As agencies build on the foundation created by the Biden administration to improve customer experience, what needs to happen next? We get insights from a former...

With the government intently focused on improving customer experience in agencies of all sizes to meet the mandates of the Biden administration executive order on CX, what will be most critical going forward?

“This is all grounded in ensuring that the government improves from where we are today,” said MaryAnn Monroe, senior director of federal CX strategy at Maximus. “The public expects a level of service and experience that we all experience in our day-to-day lives, with stores and airlines, and hotels and online experiences.”

To transform experiences and service — and ultimately build trust in government, Monroe told Federal News Network that agencies must ensure that their programs do three things:

  • Integrate CX into the business of government.

“It’s no longer just about looking at how satisfied customers are with your service,” she said. “It’s about really embedding a strategy from the top of the agency and ensuring that there’s leadership commitment, buy-in and accountability.”

Customer experience as a mission principle will continue to become more deeply rooted within each agency, Monroe said. That strategy cascades down to the program and organizational levels, to the people who are managing and delivering services on the front lines.

  • Build an internal culture that focuses on employees delivering exceptional experience to citizens.

“Improving employee experience is paramount to improving government services and experiences,” Monroe said. “Strengthening the workforce is a key priority in the President’s Management Agenda.”

Creating a consistent culture has been a challenge, especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, she acknowledged.

“Employee experience and customer experience are closely related,” Monroe said. “If employees don’t have the tools and resources they need, or the training to do their jobs, it impacts the experience and the services that they deliver to the people.”

  • Address equity and make services equally available to all.

A crucial element must be using information gathered from service experiences, now and going forward, to better understand each agency’s customers — across government as a whole, she said.

“Look at how agencies are providing services to gain a better understanding of customers — those vulnerable and underserved populations,” Monroe said.

To understand what’s happening requires that agencies implement human-centered design methods, talk directly to the people for whom they’re designing and delivering services, listen to and monitor interactions on all touchpoints with the public, and analyze data, she said. “All of this is so important to better address equity because services need to be developed and designed for the people using them.”

Establish a mindset driven by outcomes

To achieve these goals on the horizon will require a mindset shift for agencies, said Monroe, who during her career spent more than two decades in roles focused on citizen services, at the General Services Administration and the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute.

While government teams tie strategic direction to mission and agencies are deliberately tying their investments in improved services to those mission objectives, they also must   factor in customer-focused outcomes, she advised.

“What are the outcomes of what you’re doing? What problems are being solved, and what is the impact on the customer?” Monroe said. “It’s not always easy to figure out the best measures to use. But if you analyze how satisfied the public is with your services, and analyze efficiency and effectiveness as well as the ease of doing business with government, these are great places to focus.”

Increasingly, she expects that procurement officials can and will build outcomes into requirements documents and into federal contracts. Making outcomes part of a program, from the very beginning, is an important step, she said.

Equally important, Monroe said, are providing training programs for federal employees. Even as the government increases its use of digital services and relies on artificial intelligence and machine learning to understand demands and improve services in near real time, “we still need highly skilled, empathetic people assisting customers on the front lines,” she said. “They keep our government running and delivering mission critical services every day. We need to prepare them with the right skills, training and tools that they need to do their jobs and serve people well.”

Anticipate a bright future

Monroe expressed optimism for the future of CX in government. She pointed to the President’s Management Agenda as well as the executive order on improving customer experience as having created a strong foundation for agencies to build on.

Agencies have good guidance about how to manage customer service and delivery, she said. That guidance, coupled with policies on modernizing digital experiences and funding available through the Technology Modernization Fund, can catapult federal efforts forward, she said. “I see this as all positive and at the root of how we can continue to make government better for all people we serve.”

Discover more about how to improve, secure and expand customer service in this Forward-Thinking Government series.

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