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Using Technology to Enhance the Customer Experience – Arlington National Cemetery

“Honor – Remember – Explore,” Arlington National Cemetery’s motto has a new way to allow visitors to do just that with its ANC Explorer mobile app. The cemetery hosts 7,000 annual burials, over 3.1 million annual visitors, and sits on 624 acres of land. Visitors always had two main questions when arriving at the cemetery:

  • Where is the location of my loved one?
  • Where are some of the notable features or things I should see on my visit?

Major Nick Miller, Army CIO, discussed how the Army is enhancing the customer service experience using the new ANC Explore app recently on the DorobekINSIDER program and also at GovLoop and Oracle’s event, The Changing Faces of Customer Service in Government.

Maj. Miller noted a driving force behind the development of the Explorer app was to bring the rich history of Arlington National Cemetery alive to increase the customer service and experience. For the public, technology plays a key role in aiding visitors who have those key fundamental questions. Through the use of GIS, ANC was able to transform a previously archaic record system to build a custom app designed for public consumption. Now, families and visitors alike can go to ANC and get very accurate location information on gravesites and find routes to get there. There are 3 essential functions and decisions of the Explorer app that the ANC staff had to overcome:

  1. search: a very basic function that the public needs
  2. display: after the search, what info do you want to display?
  3. route: when people find the info they need, how do they get where they want to go? This process divulges thousands of grave sites into a few that a family wants to see.

Internally, ANC has a management system to help administer the other daily services. The internal system helps to make sure when a family is paying final respects that the location and time of their burial service is segregated from others in the cemetery. This internal system allows for better planning so the families do not see 3 or 4 different burials, but that they think they are the only ones there.

Maj. Miller touched on a few hurdles that ANC had to overcome when designing this new platform. Besides transforming the old pen and paper record system, the cemetery also wanted to capture photographs of every headstone and share these photos through mobile technology. This process was built into the application so that the public can come and take photos on the app where it is then reviewed and then added to the public database for others to view.

Moving forward, the ANC app expects to expand and add new aerial imagery, location based services with geofencing to serve content immediately when people are within a certain area, enhanced routing features, and provide ways to get self-guided and professional tours.

It is apparently from the use of the ANC Explorer app that technology can enhance the customer service and help to provide greater customer service. How can your agency or organization utilize technology to provide many more services to your customers?

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Scott Kearby

Before the app, you had to stand in line & wait for one of the 2-3 staff working the information office and ask them to look up the gravesite … some of the records were in a database, but Vietnam era and prior were not, so they had to go to paper files. This all took time … and if you didn’t have the name exactly correct then they might not find the info … and sometimes if you did have the correct information they could not find the info. Although the staff was always helpful, courteous and pleasant the experience was not.

All that has changed with the APP … easy to use, quick results even with fuzzy spelling, a exact locate on the gravesite, and even a photo of the headstone. They also have the app on a kiosk in the Visitor’s Center for those who don’t have a smart phone. A great example of government exceeding expecations and providing superior public service!