As government agencies move towards holistically modernizing their practices, they are forced to confront how they interact with their customers and discern if they are doing so in the most effective and efficient way. While many agencies are providing an excellent customer experience, others are still working to improve how they interact with their consumers.
Particularly important to improving customer experience is knowing how to meet customer needs. However, many government agencies often struggle with identifying exactly what their customers want. Recognizing touch points that agencies have with their customers allows organizations to better learn what their constituents’ want, while simultaneously illuminating gaps in agencies’ customer service models.
Once these gaps are identified, agencies must work to patch them to enable a better customer experience. Two recent GovLoop events, “How Gov Does Customer Service Right,” and “How to Deliver a Great Customer Experience in Government,” brought together experts from across government to discuss best practices to improve government’s customer service capabilities.
These experts identified three main gaps government agencies can fill in order to enhance customers’ experiences with government:
Update platforms. Many government agencies cater to individuals who are trying to improve their lives. As a result, organizations must optimize their transactions with customers in order to increase personalization. Jeffery Levy, Chief of E-Communications at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services emphasized, “when you have a customer who is trying to do things for themselves, you have to make the interaction all about them.” He explained that in order to do this, USCIS recently rolled out MyUSCIS. The platform is accessible across devices and helps navigate individuals across options to the information they are seeking.
The Department of State is also working to improve the customer experience by updating platforms. According to Lisa Wolfisch, Deputy Director of the Center for New Media and Promotion at the U.S. Census Bureaus, users were unsatisfied with the visa and passports section at Travel.state.gov. “Consequently, we worked to modernize all of the systems on the platform for visas and passports in order to increase customer usability,” Wolfisch explained.
Utilize public-private partnerships. Partnering with the private sector has helped government HR employees expand their services in ways that they wouldn’t be able to do without these partnerships. For example, Zach Whitman, the Chief Data Office at the U.S. Census Bureau, explained that Census is working towards getting their data into Amazon’s Alexa. By doing this, Census makes their data more accessible. Instead of going onto the Internet to sift through the website to find census information, customers can just ask Alexa for the information they want to know.
Another example of public-private partnerships that was discussed at the roundtable event was TSA PreCheck, a program that offers expedited TSA screening for a fee. TSA has partnered with major airlines to promote the program, with the goal of making customers’ experience with airport security more satisfactory.
Take a scientific approach. Agencies are able to successfully implement programs like the ones mentioned above because they have asked their customers what they need from the agency and responded to it. Anahita Reilly, Chief Customer Experience Officer at GSA, underscored the importance of taking a scientific approach to this process. “At GSA, we collected information from customers to identify pain points. Having this feedback allows us to actually plan around the customers and provide solutions to these pain points,” she said. Rooting change in the backbone of quantitative data allows agencies to show how changing one aspect of customer service could positively impact the customer experience.
Still have some questions about how your agency can start making the most of your HR department? Check out GovLoop’s newest HR guide, “The Human Resources Playbook for Government,” to gain some practical tips to address government’s most pressing HR issues.