As part of a broad transformation of federal financial management, the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service has its sights on improving customer experience for other federal agencies, the public and its own employees.
The Fiscal Service launched its Customer Experience Office in October 2022 and is looking for opportunities to improve the services it offers internally within government and to the public, said Matt Garber, the bureau’s chief customer officer.
While the bureau has done foundational working, such as journey mapping and defining customer personas, there’s still more to do to optimize Treasury financial management services, he said during the Federal News Network 2023 CX Exchange.
“At the end of the day, instead of just outputs, are you creating an environment where you have measureable outcomes for your customers that are improving their experience, that are meeting their demands?” Garber said. “Certainly we, like many other agencies, have some room for improvement in that space, and that’s really where we’re focused on.”
Pushing forward on digital frontiers
The Fiscal Service, for example, began revamping its approach to digital services after a surge in demand for Series I savings bonds in October 2022 led to outages on TreasuryDirect.gov.
“This was a program that was kind of fading into the background. Not everyone knows what a savings bond is anymore. Not everyone knows you can buy a Treasury bill just as an individual consumer,” Garber said. “And so, when there was a lot of interest, hundreds of people were coming to us seeking this, and our technology and our information and our website just wasn’t quite there to handle that type of volume.”
In response, the Fiscal Service overhauled TreasuryDirect.gov to make the website more resilient to traffic surges. The bureau also revised navigation to make that easier, he said.
“The old TreasuryDirect website, it was built in a way that every time more information came, we added another page — we added more content. And it was just really hard to find very basic information, like what is the rate of a bond?” Garber said. “We spent time redesigning that website so that just as people were coming in — because there was lots of information around I bonds coming in — they could find it easier.”
Expanding self-service features
The Fiscal Service now offers more self-service options, for instance resetting a password or changing linked bank information in an account. Customers previously could only make these changes over the phone.
“On the more direct-to-consumer side of things, that’s where we have a lot more control and understanding of the needs of our users and driving solutions that really meet or exceed those expectations,” Garber said. “We spent a lot of time saying, ‘What really are the challenges that these consumers are facing, as they’re engaging with us?’ And maybe we can’t fix all of them tomorrow. These are old systems, it’s old technology. But where can we make either big improvements or incremental improvements to that experience?”
The bureau is also taking steps to make it easier to submit payments to the government.
“I don’t need to write a paper check anymore and mail it in with a little piece of paper and wait for it to be processed. I can use things like a Visa card. I can use things like Apple Pay,” he said.
That type of change matters, Garber said, because people now expect their interaction with the federal government to align with their interaction with the commercial sector. “It’s really driving the use of those tools from the agency perspective and making sure that our tools and our technology are available to meet those needs of those individuals.”
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fiscal Service and IRS also collaborated to issue three rounds of Economic Impact Payments to households.
“The IRS and the Bureau of the Fiscal Service had to work really closely together to make sure we had the information we needed to get the payments out the door,” Garber said.
Catering to customers in other federal agencies
As the government’s central financial manager, the bureau also treats other agencies as its customers.
“Agencies don’t have bank accounts. If I’m the Social Security Administration and I have a benefits program that I need to administer and I’ve got payments that need to go from Point A to Point B — and land in that person’s bank account — the agency itself actually comes through the Fiscal Service to process those payments,” Garber said.
The bureau also collects revenue on behalf of the federal government, including tax payments and park fees.
Because of that role, the bureau has begun considering how to connect its customer agencies with providers of financial management shared services, which Garber points out will let agencies then focus more on their core missions and less on the mechanics of financial transactions.
To help achieve this goal, the bureau in December 2022 launched the financial management Quality Services Management Office.
QSMO serves as a one-stop-shop for agencies to connect with three federal shared service providers: Treasury’s Administrative Resource Center, the Interior Business Center and the Transportation Department’s Enterprise Service Center. The office also serves as a hub for agencies to identify financial services offered by commercial providers.
Commercial vendors are going through the onboarding process to be added to the QSMO marketplace, and the bureau is reaching out to additional vendors to offer their products too, Garber said.
Promoting the QSMO marketplace to agencies
The bureau is also reaching out to agencies to make them aware of services available from QSMO that will help them upgrade or maintain their core financial systems, he said.
“Where we really saw our role was: How do we open up access to our agency partners to really this broad array of services and solutions to meet their needs?” Garber said.
Those shared services cover transaction processing and business analytics, as well as robotic process automation and emerging technologies.
“What they really want to know is, ‘I want to know that those things meet the standards,’ ” Garber said. “When we created that marketplace, it was about how do we capture that 80% solution that meets the needs of most of our agencies, while allowing for that flexibility, so when I’m coming into the marketplace and procuring something, I can do the special things that are unique to delivering my mission for my consumer.”
The Fiscal Service is also looking to serve its agency customers through the launch of the Treasury Financial Experience, a website giving the federal financial workforce easier access to financial management guidance.
The site gives agencies a better way to review the thousand-plus pages of the Treasury Financial Manual, while also improving the customer experience the providers offers other agencies as a shared service provider, Garber said.
“There’s all this different policy and guidance and standards around financial management, and it used to be all over the place. We said, ‘Let’s start to pull it together. Let’s start to make it understandable, and let’s organize it in a way that novices can understand and really well experienced chief financial officers and IT system directors.’ ”