According to a recent survey conducted by GovLoop and Genesys, more than 85 percent of public servants think that creating robust customer experience (CX) is very important or even essential to achieving their agency’s missions. Yet only 11 percent of respondents said their current CX should be characterized as “exceptional,” while nearly half described it as “average” at best.
If government employees think CX is important, why isn’t it taking off in individual agencies? How can the public sector better meet – even exceed – the expectations of citizen users?
ln a recent roundtable, we asked a group of experts about “Making a Case for the Customer Experience in Government.” They included:
- Jennifer Piozia, Director of External Communications, Office of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs, Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
- Blair Corcoran de Castillo, Design Strategic, The Lab, Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
- David York, Senior Vice President, Genesys
- Tommy Minta, Digital Channel Solutions Lead, Genesys
- Tara Griffin, Analytics Solution Lead, Genesys
Their advice boiled down to four strategies for gaining support for CX initiatives:
Understand what CX means. Corcoran de Castillo described CX as,“every touchpoint in a customer journey in interacting with an agency, organization, project or service.” But, she said that many people misinterpret that to mean experiences start when someone walks into an agency or logs onto a website.
In reality, the customer journey starts much earlier than that – when the citizen starts to think about using a service. “Think about Starbucks,” she said. “Your first touch point isn’t when you walk into the store; it’s when you decide you need a caffeine boost.”
Piozia agreed. TSA’s most popular service is “AskTSA”, a program that allows passengers to ask travel-related questions – like what you can bring on a plane – before they ever enter an airport.
Connect service to missions. York said the most common question he hears from agency leaders is why it’s worth investing in the creation of happy customers. “You don’t have a choice if you’re going through TSA, for instance, so why does it matter if you have happy customers,” he said. “Well, the answer is that unhappy customers increase the cost of service.”
Customer experience can have a significant impact on an agency’s ability to meet its mission, but that connection isn’t always clear. It’s up to the CX advocate to make it more obvious.
For instance, Piozia’s team at OPM pushed for a revamp of USAJOB’s user experience because it could ultimately decrease time and cost to hire public servants. In Corcoran de Castillo’s TSA example, the agency was able to improve operational efficiencies at screening centers across the country, simply by providing better responses to customer questions.
Use data. To clearly connect robust customer service to an agency’s mission, our experts agreed that you have to prove it with data.
Again, TSA’s customer journey is a great example: After initial success during the pilot phase, TSA’s customer service team was able to secure 10 full-time employee positions for the program. That funding was approved because the team showed their results – answering more than 330,000 requests in less than 20 minutes each. Once the program was fully funded, the staff witnessed a 179 percent growth in less than a year. They took that data back to leadership to secure an additional five FTEs.
However, Griffin warned, “Not all data is relevant. You have to find the actionable data. That can be challenging because it’s not black and white.”
Often, you’ll need to combine multiple different types of data to paint a clear picture of how CX improves operations. “We’ll never have a single source of all data, ever,” Griffin continued. “Often data is in different locations, housed in different systems that don’t talk to each other. To get to the delivery phase, you’ll need an architecture that lets you open up a bit and join that data.”
You can also use that data to improve your customer services. “You can look at demographics and understand where people are accessing your services, so you can make better decisions about how to reach them,” Minta said.
Start small. Finally, our experts agreed to start with a low-risk, low-cost project to prove the value of customer service. In many cases, leadership is hesitant to invest in CX due to resource constraints. Starting with low-lift efforts can help mitigate this concern while familiarizing them with customer services.
“The perception is it can take a lot of time and money – and it can. But, it doesn’t have to be. For instance, we sat in an agency cafeteria and asked people to come talk to us about their USAJOB experiences,” said Corcoran de Castillo.
Taking incremental steps to understand your project and its implications can also help ensure early success, said Minta. It can ensure your team uses channels as they’re needed, in a consistent manner. When things aren’t working, you can quickly backtrack to repair.
Griffin agreed: “Take the pieces that work, then grow off of it. Don’t try to take things in one fell swoop.”
As your customer service success grows, so will leadership buy-in. “Ultimately, the goal is helping leadership understand why providing customer experience is fundamentally essential to meeting your mission objectives,” concluded York.