Measuring Customer Experience: It’s a Journey

A year after President Biden issued the Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience, it seems that every agency, no matter how far along in the journey, is working to improve CX. But experience is, by definition, subjective. So how do you measure the success of your efforts?

At a recent GovLoop online training session, How to Measure Your Customer Experience, experts Barbara Morton, Deputy Chief Veterans Experience Officer of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Angy Peterson, Vice President at the Granicus Experience Group, shared their insights on creating and tracking relevant customer experience metrics.

Define the Experience You Want to Measure

“One of the first things we wanted to do was define what customer experience means,” said Morton. “We wanted to set a common definition so we would all know what we were measuring toward, [in terms of] veteran experience.”

For VA, that’s represented in four key areas:

  1. Trust. How do veterans and their families feel about their interaction, and how does that drive trust for the organization?
  2. Ease. Was the interaction easy? Did it feel seamless?
  3. Effectiveness. Did they get what they needed?
  4. Emotion. Did they feel valued and honored, like a valued customer?

Every agency culture is different, Morton noted, and will need to define its own CX goals.

Use the Right Tools

Agencies need to look at all the channels where customers may engage and set measurements appropriate to those experiences. “What works for one beneficiary may not work for another,” Peterson explained. “Being aware of where [each] particular person is in engaging with this agency [lets you give them] a much more personalized experience.”

For qualitative measures like trust and respect, surveys can be the best tools. “They’re really great for measuring sentiment,” Peterson said. Morton said that to work well, they have to be “short and sweet,” 5 to 8 questions, and focused on the four key elements in the VA’s definition of CX. By surveying consistently on the central issues, she said, they can “turn the qualitative data into something you can measure.”

But to understand whether the process is effective, behavior data tells the story. “Where are people spending their time on your site? Where are they falling off in an enrollment process? How much time are they spending on a call center wait line?” Peterson asked. “As long as there’s a number, you can start to track.”

Morton and Peterson agreed that you also need to follow customer experiences that aren’t online to get a true measure. At VA, an early project discovered veterans were having difficulty navigating a large medical center to get outpatient care. “That was a pain point,” Morton said. “We designed a survey to measure and baseline what that experience was like before and after we rolled out a greeter program.” That low-tech solution aligned with VA’s commitment to ease of use, and they were able to measure their improvement.

Peterson cited an initiative with Indiana Child and Family Services that recognized many of its low-income customers moved too frequently for mailed information to reach them reliably. “We developed an online communications program to send the appropriate messages to each particular family at the moment they were needed,” she explained. The agency was able to measure how much more often families responded.

Don’t be Afraid to Take the Plunge

One risk with measuring CX is that you may find out the experience you provide isn’t as positive as you want it to be. Think of it as setting a baseline, Morton advised, so you can start to improve. “You can move the needle, but you do need to start somewhere.”

With new reporting requirements from the EO, as well as the President’s Management Agenda and the Office of Management and Budget’s Circular A-11, she notes, there’s more internal support than ever for agencies to take the risk.

Even starting where you are can help improve CX. “Just asking people about their experience can start building trust,” Peterson added, “because people just want to be heard. They want to give you a chance to do better.”

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