We can all relate to having customer experiences that left us feeling tired and frustrated — versus having other experiences that helped us to seamlessly accomplish tasks. We’re all customers in one way or another, and we expect the government to provide the same quality of service that we’ve come to expect from the private sector.
Customer experience (CX) in government used to be more compartmentalized amongst silos and less unified across departments. But the government has come to the point of considering CX holistically, as the sum of all experiences that government agencies are having with customers over time. CX has come to the forefront, appearing in the President’s Management Agenda, and in legislation like the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA). CX can no longer be separated from the way governments operate.
Gaye Adams, Director of Executive Services of the Office of Larry Hogan, State of Maryland, knows firsthand that surveying all the touchpoints of customer experience is crucial to developing a state government-wide strategy.
“We’re very service-oriented, we want to get services delivered in a timely manner,” Adams explained in the GovLoop online training “Government Insights: Crafting a Customer Experience Strategy.” “In doing that, we saw that we were missing a key component, which was how a customer feels after they interacted with our agency. We needed to make sure that the process was as painless and paper-free as possible by looking at the process as a whole.”
The experience across the agency models the one that citizens expect from private industry, according to Adams. The objectives of improving CX are consistent between the public and private sectors- retaining customers by improving satisfaction. Adams stated that her job is to make sure that the constituents are taken care of.
Nicole Blake Johnson, Managing Editor at GovLoop, also spoke at the online training about the uniform challenges that arise when addressing CX. This topic, and other nuances of CX, are covered in Johnson’s new guide, “Government’s Customer Experience Playbook.”
The main challenge, according to Johnson, is that CX is bigger than a single position; it’s everyone collectively working together and explaining to employees why CX matters.
Adams and Eric Romero, Director of Information Services of the City of Baton Rouge, agreed. Romero elaborated: “On our side, it’s internal struggles that we have to overcome. We’re government so we’re stuck in our ways. We have to break the mold and understand that improving CX goes beyond the surface.”
CX has the potential to be an issue that unifies an entire agency. It ties employees to the heart, the purpose, of what an agency does. People naturally become more motivated when they’re reminded of the parts they play in making a difference.
An additional challenge is communicating CX measures to the right groups. As Adams noted, there are five generations out there, and agencies must reach them all. Agency officials have to know their constituencies, but this is a multi-level, not just a one-way, effort.
Romero also noted the difficulty of getting the word out without a budget for advertising. His team always does a press release, so people might know about it from the news, but the article eventually goes away. Romero addresses this by promoting through sessions at libraries or at district council meetings.
Another challenge is misinterpreting CX as merely digitizing services. Even though people may connect improved CX and improved digital services, CX is about more than digitization. A bad process is a bad process, regardless of whether it’s digital or on paper.
Johnson also stated that building trust with a constituency is important. “It shouldn’t take a 50-question survey to ask people if they liked the service,” Johnson said. “Really it comes down to if the customer would refer you to someone else.”
Christopher Dorobek, the Executive Editor at GovLoop’s DorobekINSIDER and moderator of the online training, summed it up well: “Good customer experience is contagious. If you do it right, people will tell other people.”