What data source guides more than a trillion dollars in federal funding every year? None other than the census, of course.
In 2020, the Census Bureau carried out what can be considered the nation’s largest civilian undertaking: an accurate count of everyone in the United States. The agency serves a range of clientele so massive – from individuals to whole governments, public servants to local communities – that it wasn’t easy to roll out its first digital count.
In this immense effort, the Bureau faced key challenges. How could it unify dozens of disparate data sources to gain insights that were easy to access, while also ensuring the security of the data?
By using the right technology and having the right technology mindset, the agency was able to reduce manual door-to-door efforts and bring data to every decision-maker across departments. The public, in turn, completed the census online for the first time.
The Right Technology and Mindset
A key factor to the Bureau’s success was investing in modern technology to deliver excellent services.
“One of the primary barriers that has to be overcome is the notion that citizen experience is ‘good enough’ for government,” said Bill Wright, Senior Director of North American Government Affairs at
Splunk, a data platform provider.
In today’s digital age, technology powers so much of constituent experiences. Agencies can’t afford to wait on modernizing. They must invest in modern IT so that customer experience (CX) efforts don’t languish but continuously improve.
“It’s not that the government hasn’t been investing in IT. It’s that these investments are often misplaced,” Wright said. As much as 80% of IT- and cybersecurity-focused funds nurse outdated and often unsecure legacy solutions.
Agencies should instead re-route investments into modern cloud-based technology that can deliver updated infrastructure, applications and other technologies that are both less expensive and more secure.
Data platforms are one of these technologies. With Splunk at the center of the Census Bureau’s security operations center (SOC) and network operations center (NOC), the agency successfully navigated the first digital census while proactively identifying vulnerabilities and advancing its cloud transformation.
Additionally, data platforms with artificial intelligence can mine feedback online, by phone or email to analyze whether a constituent received satisfactory service with an agency. This kind of intelligence can easily be folded into customer service platforms in an automated fashion.
Splunk, for example, partners with agencies to deliver data-driven, real-time insights and improve service delivery over time.
But more than anything, to go from “good enough” to “excellent,” the central tenet to any successful CX initiative is the customer – understanding who they are and what their journey looks like.
“More often than not, those interactions are done virtually and rely heavily on technology,” Wright said. “So agencies should look at how innovative technology and data can complement their efforts to bring the great citizen experience that we all want.
This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s guide “Customer Experience Beyond Memos: A How-To Guide.”