This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent report “How to Improve Your CX Strategy.” Download the full report here.
Creating a stellar experience for customers who interact with your agency is about more than tracking metrics and checking boxes. At its core, an excellent customer experience (CX) provides a seamless, pleasant, and efficient end-to-end journey — for the veteran searching for benefits information online, to the individual waiting in line to be served at a local office, or the taxpayer reaching out to your agency’s call center.
To help your agency build on its current efforts, here are seven best practices to drive better outcomes from your CX strategy:
1. Identify and understand who your customers are. Your agency serves a wide variety of people who live in different geographic regions, have different needs, and require various levels of assistance. “We have to understand who those customers are and present information in clear language so it can be consumed by different types of visitors,” said Dave Lewan, Vice President of Public Sector at ForeSee. Agency leaders need to know if visitors are internal, external, and how frequently they interact with the organization. What are visitors’ intentions? Lewan encouraged agency leaders to diagnose strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities in each audience segment by building personas, and he also noted that “delivering a great customer experience doesn’t happen with a one-size-fits-all approach.”
2. Actively listen to customers. This is a best practice that should extend beyond your call center to the various interactions between your agency and the people you serve. For example, you may get feedback from website visitors, but are you following up when they don’t receive the experience they expected? Contacting customers directly if they’ve had a bad experience can give you a deeper understanding of what went wrong — and how to fix it.
3. Measure. The mantra of Total Quality Management (TQM), as often referenced by ForeSee, is you cannot manage what you do not measure. ForeSee stands by these words, too. It’s important to integrate both quantitative and qualitative data, and measure performance against goals and objectives. We can’t just look at the satisfaction of an experience. Rather, agency leaders need to understand which desired agency outcomes are driven by satisfaction, and what’s driving satisfaction. When done right, leaders can prioritize the investment of their limited time, money and resources.
Specific to the scales used to measure the customer experience, Lewan suggested that government have a common yardstick when it comes to measurement. “An application process at the VA [Veterans Affairs Department] may get a six out of 10. An experience with Health and Human Services Department may produce a four out five, while an experience with Treasury’s mobile app might get a 72! If government moves to make significant strides toward a common index, performance metrics could be clearer for both bureaucrats and taxpayers.”
Many processes in government can start offline and end online or vice versa. But the siloed nature of government agencies and programs makes it difficult to find what they’re looking for. Agency leaders need to understand the entire customer journey — end-to-end. “Citizens are multi-channel, multi-device consumers,” Lewan said. “We tend to throw the term ‘omnichannel’ around without realizing the simple definition is, citizens/ customers interact with your organization the way they want to — seamlessly. It’s not easy to do, but it’s definitely the objective we should all strive for.”
4. Analyze employee engagement. When it comes to optimizing the customer experience, employees play a critical role, and an engaged employee population will help drive desired organizational outcomes. ForeSee defines employee engagement as the emotional commitment one has to his or her organization and its goals. Lewan highlighted a quote from the author Simon Sinek that summarizes the importance of employee engagement: “Customers will never love the organization until the employees love it first.”
Lewan added that agencies should “learn what is driving employee engagement and proactively seek input from customer service reps and frontline managers.”
5. Redefine customer service standards. “Success requires definition,” Lewan explained. “It’s not enough to just set standards from an organizational perspective, such as call time, time on page or page views. We need to integrate attitudinal and observational inputs with behavioral metrics and standards to clearly understand how agencies are meeting objectives.” Managing expectations with agency customers will also “buy time and create a cushion” with customers, Lewan noted. “Departments, agencies and programs have limited time, money and resources, so setting expectations and even publishing current and future optimal standards will go a long way for both customers and government.
6. Gain stakeholder adoption. If you want to get everyone on the same page to improve the customer experience, bridge the gap between senior leaders and those who interact with CX data regularly. Ultimately, you want leaders to understand the data and use it to drive business decisions. Assign a CX Champion, an individual or group charged with gathering stakeholder input, documenting and illustrating customer journeys and other processes, holding education sessions with stakeholders and leaders, refining key performance indicators and more.
7. Convert insights into actions. Plan your work and work your plan. Identify and prioritize key segments and opportunities. Co-create and communicate a proposed strategy, and note that rolling out a successful customer experience strategy takes optimum teamwork. “CX implementation takes a village: assembling a team, creating task forces when necessary, developing a shared vision of success and communicating results,” Lewan said. “Then, after gaining momentum, go bigger, broader and longer term. Your customers will thank you.”