Customer experience is a major focus for many government agencies today. Constituents want to receive communications, information and services at anytime, anywhere and on any device. But meeting that demand is often easier said than done.
In a recent training, we spoke with Lee Becker, Chief of Staff for the Veterans Experience Office at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and Stuart Crutchfield, Senior Strategic Business Consultant at Genesys. They shared their insights into what makes a successful customer experience journey, and specifically how connected communication plays a vital role.
“When you think of a government by the people for the people, the notion that we want to think of our citizens to be able to put the capabilities in place to meet their needs is such a rewarding thing to do,” Becker said. However, both Becker and Crutchfield said they’ve seen many organizations attempt to achieve these goals without any real success in moving the needle.
In a survey of public servants by Genesys and GovLoop, over 50 percent of respondents said they aren’t improving their customer experience, despite many agencies investing in projects and tools to improve.
“We engage with these organizations to understand why they aren’t where they want to be,” explained Crutchfield. “The question we’d like to resolve is, ‘What is the root cause of that? Why is so much talent finding it difficult to progress in the field of customer experience?’”
One of the big inhibitors that Crutchfield and Genesys have found is the breadth of communication channels today. There is an increasingly wide variety with which agencies can reach their constituents, including mobile, e-mail, voice, video, social media and even chatbots. These multiple channels present a significant opportunity for agencies to increase the exposure of their information and services. But, this variety also presents challenges.
Most notably, leveraging multiple channels can challenge agencies to consistently coordinate and synchronize their message, while also ensuring internal information is connected and informed. In the same survey by Genesys and GovLoop, 39 percent of government respondents said they had too many communication channels that don’t sync and nearly half of respondents said they don’t have plans in place to connect these disparate channels.
That disconnect is a major problem for agnecies looking to improve customer experience. As Crutchfield said, “If things are in siloes, then how can you see a customer journey? And if I can’t create a journey, how do I know what’s going on? And if I don’t know what’s going on, how can I make anything better?”
Agencies must be able to connect their multiple services, channels, and even their personnel in order to deliver a consistent customer experience. So, how do they do that?
“It’s not a simple thing to fix,” admitted Crutchfield. “That’s why we like to use the terms of walk, run and fly. Change management is never an easy thing. It’s a long-term mission.”
Becker agreed. “You have to have a framework,” he said. “Start with small chunks and then celebrate those milestones.”
Crutchfield offered a three-step approach to revamping CX:
- Integrate. To create a connected service suite, you must have an underlying platform that supports multiple processes, tools and channels and measures outcomes from across that range of services. Additionally, you need a system that can connect personnel, including front and back office personnel as well as IT teams and workforce managers. Not to mention, your platform should be able to bridge the connection between these personnel and the systems or machine they use to provide service. This is the first and most necessary step to creating connected communications and constituent experiences.
- Modernize. The next step is to strategically route these connected technologies and processes. This approach ensures you’re using the best new machine learning and automated capabilities, without losing the human or personalized feel that traditional service approaches offered. In many cases, that means leveraging advanced technologies for many services but then routing more complex requests to personnel. “With this process in place, humans can do the things all day that they excel at and enjoy doing the most,” said Crutchfield.
- Reinvigorate. This leads to the third step in customer experience, which is reinvigorating the mission of CX. Becker said he saw employees become more invested in service at the VA when they were given the data, tools and technologies to meet that mission. Crutchfield agreed, noting that when personnel can use their skills of empathy and service, rather than executing mundane tasks, they are more engaged in their work.
By following these three steps, agencies can begin making real progress on customer experience. That’s a must for government. “The ones who embrace customer experience thrive, and those that don’t embrace it, don’t survive,” concluded Becker