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Cultivating a CX Coalition in Government

Driving customer experience progress where there is institutional resistance to customer centricity is challenging. For years in the federal government and military, I was a change leader — campaigning to shift mindsets and compel new ways of working. Whether it was communications strategy in the Marine Corps or customer experience in the federal government, cultivating a coalition for combined action helped me lead change.

You cannot drive change alone — or from within a silo. Great change takes great people aligned to a common vision. As you spread customer experience (CX) management practices in government, consider these three approaches to bring others along.

1. Lead from the front and take people with you

As the Marine Corps develops leaders, they are told to “lead from the front” and “lead by example.” Simply put, take an active role in the mission you lead and behave in the same manner you expect from those looking to you for leadership.

  • Invest time to understand the ins and outs of your organization and its operations so you can identify how to best tie in CX management practices. 
  • Avoid viewing CX work as a “program” or bolted-on capability — those terms call to mind stand-alone efforts and organizational boundaries. 
  • View and describe CX management as a way of doing business, accessible to anyone. 
  • Be a customer-centric servant leader, understanding the perspectives of others, helping them succeed and meeting them where they are to achieve shared goals. 

2. Rally the right crowd

In order to build an effective coalition, it’s important to develop relationships across many work units. Seek out key influencers who make customer-impacting decisions and draw them in. While IT, customer-facing staff leaders, website managers and communication leaders are an easy start, don’t overlook critical areas that impact customers: 

  • Policy
  • Operations
  • Strategic planning
  • Performance management 
  • Human Resources

These areas often set conditions for the downstream impacts of employee and customer experience. Find direct ties between what they care about (and report on), and CX management practices. For example, if your Operations division is battling high volume and backlogs, use CX insights to determine if there are customer challenges or mistakes contributing to longer processing times. If so, prioritize addressing these pain points and measure the impact to Operations. Delivering this kind of organizational value transforms skeptics into advocates.

3. Establish virtuous feedback loops

You need to keep a broad and well-informed view of the organization and who it serves while bringing the voice of your customers to the table.

  • Share the voice of your customers to foster customer-centric thinking and bring leaders closer to the people impacted by their decisions. 
    • Use the customer feedback and insights you collect across the customer journey to build empathy and understanding for those you serve. 
    • Share customer quotes at the start of meetings. 
    • Develop customized reports for leaders and staff to bring customer experiences and sentiment into their information environment, which enables customer-centric decision making. 
  • Host a CX strategy sync. Gather customer-impacting leaders to share perspectives and see a more holistic view of the organization. Use this group to inform CX management goals and strategy. Once mature, leverage the team to tackle complex challenges and steer ways of working organization-wide.
  • Start a community of interest. Get your CX advocates together regularly to share successes and solutions, discuss current CX trends and invite guest speakers from other government organizations. Grow participant volume to spread CX concepts broadly.

If the initial journey as a CX leader feels lonely, make relationship building and organizational research a priority. Lean on customer feedback and use an experience management platform to derive meaningful insights from what your customers are telling you. Helping others look through the lens of those you serve to lead and make decisions is the heart of spreading CX management practices.

Jill Leyden is a former federal government customer experience leader. She led organizational change at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, where she served as the first customer experience administrator. Jill drove customer-centric transformation to better serve trademark customers around the world. Her public service includes 9 years of active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps and she continues to serve in the Reserves. Jill is a principal industry advisor at Qualtrics, an experience management company helping public and private sector organizations create breakthrough experiences across the globe.

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