USDA’s New Employee-Led Program Sets the Tone for Improving CX

The Partnership for Public Service held its second “Transforming Customer Experience in Government” summit on Thursday to discuss the major strides and challenges that agencies are facing with customer experience (CX).

During a lively panel discussion, Joe Doyle, Director of the Office of Customer Experience for the Agriculture Department, spoke openly about the new employee-led program that his agency is embarking on.

Doyle’s goal, quite simply, is to make the customer’s experience “faster, friendlier and easier.” USDA aims to achieve this goal by focusing on three target areas:

  1. Speeding up service processes by using lean management
  2. Employing professional management at all call centers and customer interactive services
  3. Having a more value-aligned employee base in which everyone’s voice is respected equally

But, they’re not just stopping there. Doyle also revealed that the department has started a new program to “fix problems in real time,” with its Customer Experience Champions program. The program is led by 40 current employees, all nominated by undersecretaries and department heads, whose responsibility is to come up with solutions to improve customer experience. Sometimes, as Doyle relayed, the solutions can be as simple as fixing cumbersome, internal processes to help speed up the end result of a request.

Doyle’s main concern, however, is to bring the customer back into the spotlight. “The conversation needs to include the customer, and the visuals need to represent our farmers and the people in food service,” Doyle said.

USDA is also instituting a new feedback site to gain useful insights from its employees. This feedback site acts as a follow-up to the department’s “Ask Sonny” program (modeled after President Lincoln’s “Ask Abe”) with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue.

Other panelists at the Partnership event included Kimberly Brandt, Principal Deputy Administrator for Operations Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and Charles Worthington, Chief Technology Officer at the Veterans Affairs Department. Both agreed that change is essential to improving CX in government.

Although tasks may seem daunting, “the key thing is to start,” Worthington said. In a similar fashion, Brandt added that the important thing to remember is, “patients over paperwork.”

USDA is certainly setting the bar high as it looks for ways to put the customer back into customer experience. Doyle stated that one of the first steps the department is taking is, “asking the people at the transactional level what their customers need and how we can help.”

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