If government agencies were kingdoms, who would sit in a throne reigning supreme over the customer experience (CX) that they provide? According to a recent panel of public and private sector thought leaders, customers are always the people beneath the crowns.
“The key with customer experience is putting the customer first,” Angy Peterson, Granicus’s Vice President for Digital Engagement Services, said Tuesday. Granicus is a leading provider of cloud-based solutions that empower governments to better serve citizens. “It’s what their needs and motivations are.”
Peterson was speaking at GovLoop’s ninth annual Citizen Experience & Engagement Seminar. The event was conducted in partnership with Carahsoft, an IT solutions provider which specializes in citizen engagement and CX.
According to Peterson, strong CX begins with understanding the experiences of individual users before recognizing how each one’s journey fits into the greater whole of the services agencies provide.
“You can conduct user testing or simple interviews about the users who are using your services,” she said, recommending that agencies strive for samples of at least five people. “You want to get a nice mix if you can. You’re not just serving one person. [For example], with federal agencies, you have large constituencies to serve.”
Tuesday’s panel then discussed journey mapping. In governments, journey mapping documents the entire experience that citizens have while interacting with their agencies for services. During Tuesday’s discussion, both federal and local government officials praised the journey mapping process.
“Our residents want to pay their bills,” David Herlihy, Head of Digital Innovation in Arlington County, Virginia said of an example where the county puts citizens first. “They don’t want to have to spend two hours paying them. It’s making sure that these services are seamless and easy to interact with [for them].”
Another example of Arlington County’s customer-first approach, Herlihy continued, is the county’s website. Herlihy said that Arlington County is now updating the portal so that it is easier for citizens to navigate and use.
“If it’s not easy, it’s not going to get used,” he said, noting Arlington County’s website hasn’t had an update in five years. “That means our project is failing. They can use it effectively if it’s not going to bog people down.”
Courtney Winship, meanwhile, echoed Herlihy’s assessment while giving her own remarks on the topic. Winship serves as Chief of the Digital Services Division in the Office of Citizenship and Applicant Information Services (CAIS). CAIS is nestled within the Homeland Security Department’s (DHS) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) component.
“Our agency issues immigration benefits,” Winship said. “We are trying to provide people with the tools and the information that they need to file for these benefits.”
Winship noted that USCIS’s mission is difficult, however, due to the wide range of citizen experiences the agency handles. According to Winship, journey mapping has helped USCIS deliver benefits to legal immigrants more effectively.
“The populations we serve are very, very diverse,” she said, noting language as one trait that varies between citizens. “Doing journey mapping was really helpful. Getting that holistic view was very important for us.”
Ben Cathers added that Hootsuite, his employer, often sees how different age groups require different responses from their agencies. Hootsuite is a social media management platform provider, and Cathers serves as the company’s Principal Solutions Consultant.
“Social media is going to be where your constituents are,” he said. “We’re seeing one of the biggest communication shifts we’ve ever seen in a generation.”
Herlihy added that whatever CX concerns are facing agencies, government employees should remember that they’re part of the larger overall government.
“Focus on manageable chunks,” he advised. “If you’re not focused on this whole journey, this marathon, then you’re going to be frustrated. Everyone is so focused on that 100 percent that they don’t realize that they’re one step along the final journey.”