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Aim for the “X”

How government agencies can lift citizen satisfaction ratings with a stronger focus on experience management, or XM

Uncle Sam apparently could use an approval rating boost, too.

Citizen satisfaction with federal government services declined sharply in 2021, sliding 2.6% to a score of 63.4 (out of 100), according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s (ACSI) Federal Government Report 2021. In ACSI ratings of shipping services, meanwhile, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) scored a 70, lower than FedEx’s 75 and the 74 for UPS.

“The results speak volumes, with citizen satisfaction descending to an all-time low,” Forrest Morgeson, director of research at ACSI, said of the government ratings. “The federal government has its work cut out for it if it hopes to turn things around.”

Which begs the question: Is it possible for even a single behemoth public agency like the USPS, let alone an entire government, to reinvent itself from a service perspective and turn the citizen experience from a negative to a positive?

As agencies here in the U.S. and abroad are demonstrating, with the right blend of strategic approaches and experience-management (XM) capabilities, such a turnaround is not only possible, it can be engineered in a relatively short period of time.

Take the case of the U.K. Post Office, which, despite fitting the behemoth profile, with the largest retail network in the country, today behaves more like a nimble, customer-centric business. By focusing on XM to improve the customer experience, the UKPO, with 11,500 branches, was named the #1 public services brand in the U.K. in 2019 and 2020 for customer satisfaction. In just nine months, it posted a 4% increase in the vital “ease of doing business with” metric.

XM essentially entails gathering feedback in the moment, during key points in the citizen, customer or employee journey, then analyzing and acting upon that data to continually refine and improve outcomes and experiences. Here in the U.S., experience management tools are helping public agencies engineer similarly eye-opening CX improvements. At the municipal level, for example, the city of Orlando, Fla., identified a significant decrease in resident satisfaction regarding the reservation of space at a public park. Drawing from real-time citizen feedback, the city quickly identified the issue, simplified the process for reserving space at public parks, and increased resident satisfaction by 45% as a result.

7 Best Practices

These turnarounds are the result of a carefully plotted and well-executed XM strategy. Here’s a look at seven best practices that government agencies around the world are following, and that other public entities could readily apply to elevate CX.

  1. Scale experience management across the business. Making lasting improvements to customer experience takes an all-in approach where the organization democratizes CX data so all relevant departments, branches, teams and individuals are sharing real-time insight and are synced to common metrics and goals.

    At the U.K. Post Office, an XM mobile app enables executives and managers to monitor, collaborate and act as soon as experience gaps surface, before they turn into major issues. So when a negative customer response fits predefined criteria, the app automatically notifies the appropriate area manager, and a follow-up ticket is created. The area manager then partners with branch teams to resolve the issue and follow up with the customer.

  2. Establish multiple channels beyond XM to make it easy for constituents to provide feedback. In Auckland, NZ, citizens can use a dedicated online portal to register feedback, report and request a fix for a maintenance issue, then track their request through to resolution via text or email alerts.

    In San Diego, when people register a request or complaint with the city via a new “Get It Done” app, the app pushes their requests out to a work order management system for quick processing. Whether they’re interacting with a retailer or a government agency, people have come to expect multi-channel accessibility and smooth, natural conversations and interactions that can jump across multiple channels without missing a beat.

  3. Ask citizens the right questions, at exactly the right points in their interactions. In Provo, Utah, civic engagement and actionable insight from citizens on issues from quality of life to zoning have increased sharply, largely as a result of XM tools that enable the city to gather real-time feedback from residents via quick in-the-moment pop-up surveys. A big part of experience management is identifying which questions to ask users and when in the journey to pose them, so feedback can be gathered without disrupting the journey.

  4. Seek granular insight to identify and fix branch-level issues. Because so much of the feedback it receives is local and branch-specific, the UKPO has enabled individual branches to access their own data, filter it accordingly and see exactly the issue they need to act upon. “We’ve been able to pinpoint which areas our branches are struggling in, put together an action plan for improvement, drive up customer experience, and then share key learnings across branches,” says Jesus de Sousa, a UKPO area manager.

  5. Ensure consistency of experience across every agency branch. By integrating and monitoring key agent performance metrics like friendliness, knowledge, professionalism and efficiency across its massive branch network, the UKPO can spot big-picture skill and behavioral gaps, then develop action plans accordingly.

  6. Institute a system of action. Improving CX means establishing a feedback loop where agencies can quickly mobilize to act upon the input they collect. At the UKPO, personalized dashboards for each branch team make it easy to turn a customer complaint into a branch improvement.

  7. Enlist high-powered tools to sift through all the feedback. To digest and analyze the huge volume of feedback it receives (much of it in open text format), the UKPO uses AI-powered text analysis to automatically organize comments by topic, then track them, assign sentiment scores, surface trending topics and identify areas for improvement.

Government agencies were created to fulfill a mission, and in doing so, be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. Those that are serious about fulfilling their mission in citizen-friendlier ways need to consider investing some of those dollars to improve the customer experience.

A public sector expert for SAP Industries, Dante Ricci has over 26 years of experience in technology, holding roles in solution management, value engineering, operations, innovation and marketing. His mission is to empower people through technology to improve both organization performance and people’s lives. 

Photo by Engin Akyurt via pexels.com

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