Insight by Maximus

CX Exchange 2023: Maximus’ MaryAnn Monroe on why to start by identifying critical pain points

By taking a human-centered design approach, view your agency’s services as your customer would and identify the most troublesome problems and burdens, advises...

Federal agencies on the quest to improve customer experience have a challenge few private sector organizations face: They’re obligated to serve a wide range of eligible people. In some cases, that means potentially everyone in the country. Universal service requires accommodating an array of languages, backgrounds and abilities.

Citizens and the public often don’t have a choice either when it comes to customer experiences and the agencies from which people must obtain passports, Social Security information, tax refunds and myriad other government services.

“We as citizens and as Americans in this country, we don’t have choices when it comes to interacting with the federal government,” said MaryAnn Monroe, senior director of total experience solutions and services at Maximus. Therefore, she added, the government must “continually move that needle in improving the services that they provide because this is what we’re used to in our personal life.”

Maximus has been working with several high-impact service providers, or HISPs as identified in the Biden administration’s President’s Management Agenda — agencies such as IRS, the Small Business Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Through such work, agencies are indeed improving the government’s customer experience and the digital interactions that support agency services, Monroe said during the Federal News Network 2023 CX Exchange.

Agencies push forward on CX

“In my time in government, as well as out of government, there’s been a steady improvement and a steady momentum,” said Monroe, who spent much of the first half of her career at the General Services Administration and the National Institutes of Health. “People are definitely trying to operationalize their customer experience strategies into how they do work.”

As it does internally for employee experience, Monroe said, Maximus tries to model the level of customer experience externally that it works with agencies to achieve.

“It’s incumbent upon us, as a federal contractor providing these services, to be paying attention and having agendas and strategies and action plans in place,” she said.

Human-centered design offers the ideal approach for revamping both online and omnichannel services, Monroe said. This technique looks at service delivery from the outside in, from a constituent’s point of view. It uses a related technique called journey mapping, which translates what people are trying to accomplish when they visit a site into how the site actually operates.

Start with understanding your gaps in CX

Improving CX “begins with understanding what the problems are. What are those burdens and those time taxes people are struggling with?” Monroe said. Ask questions such as whether people can easily sign on, complete necessary forms, submit forms easily and obtain help quickly, she advised.

What’s more, focus on understanding context, which Monroe called crucial when designing and programming good CX. For example, a customer might be a remote military service member accessing a logistics or other mission support application. In that case, “understanding what’s happening there on the front line [becomes relevant] so that we can improve in an agile manner,” Monroe said.

Monitoring website activity from a CX standpoint will show where processes hang up or people get confused — or where a database call or other procedure deep in an application needs reprogramming to deliver the correct result.

“It’s fundamental in a human-centered design world that you really understand your user persona and what their journey is,” Monroe said. “Measurement is at the heart of this too. Measurement looks different depending on what you’re delivering.”

She stressed that while the work of aligning systems with journey mapping might be done by programmers, an agency will get the best results when it takes a team approach. Monroe recommended bringing programmers, IT management staff, CX designers and government program owners — and some intended users as well —together to do this work.

Monroe cited one Defense Department organization with which “our team is very active in designing web applications and mobile apps. They bring service members into the process, into the lab to interview them and to help understand and identify what problems the organization is trying to solve.”

To read or watch other sessions on demand, go to our 2023 CX Exchange event page.

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