The way customers interact with you and your agency doesn’t have to be flashy to be effective. In fact, simple things, such as the ability to complete and sign forms online or from a mobile device, a userfriendly website, and clear messaging that speaks to a customer’s pain points, can go a long way. These investments are no longer nice-to-haves in this era of COVID-19. Responsiveness followed by action to resolve an issue can make all the difference.
But this approach to serving others begins with a mindset that first acknowledges you actually have customers. This may seem like rogue thinking for many government agencies.
Who is your customer?
“The word customer in CX implies a business transaction, which it can be. However, your customer may be a different stakeholder, a person for whom you’re seeking to design a better experience that is not transactional. This person may be an employee or member of the general public. It’s important to be clear about which customer segment youʼre supporting at a given time.” — General Services Administration (GSA) Office of Customer Experience’s “Customer Experience Services Evaluation and Buying Guide”
What service(s) are you providing?
This question isn’t easy to answer for agencies that don’t see themselves as having a customer service role. Defining what a service is starts with understanding what customers need from your agency and how you meet those needs. From there, you can think through how customers access those services, whether in person, online or a combination of interactions.
What is a customer-first mindset?
Seeing the public as customers is still a new concept for many agencies, especially those with a regulatory or national security mission. Their objective to ensure safety may seem directly at odds with this new paradigm of seeing the public as customers. But that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, having a customer-first mindset can ease regulatory burdens for the agency and the customer — when done right. (See page 24 to learn about the approach the Transportation Security Administration’s [TSA] social media team is taking.) A customer-first mindset doesn’t necessarily mean the customer is always right. Rather, it means:
- Advocating on behalf of, not working against, customers
- Designing and building with, not separate from or in isolation from, customers
- Serving with empathy, not apathy
Stephanie Thum, a Certified CX Professional and former Vice President of Customer Experience at Export-Import Bank, is a tireless advocate for improved customer experiences in both government and industry. Here are some key insights she shared with GovLoop about moving from the concepts of CX to construct:
- Be willing to do the work. CX must be interwoven into the fabric of your agency. It doesn’t happen naturally; it’s deliberately designed. A foundational part of that work should include an administrative policy and strategic plan that guide all agency employees so that they’re on the same page concerning processes, tools and mindset. That fosters collaboration.
- Talk about CX in business terms. Just like the private sector, government agencies have a business side that matters to senior leaders and directly impacts mission. Can you show the correlation between improved CX and business value? Value could mean monetary savings, but also reduced wait times, more self-service options for the public that free up internal staff and more.
- Know the various channels through which your agency solicits customer feedback. One of the big issues Thum has seen around CX is that although people are in charge of CX oversight, they don’t always know how many are surveying customers and where that feedback resides. This leads to data silos and security risks.
- Don’t forget your internal customers. An increasing number of internal operations, including IT help desks, are embracing CX practices and principles. They’re establishing governance procedures, and measuring, monitoring and triaging issues that impact internal customers.
- Celebrate small victories all the time. For example, whenever you see an agency leader talk about customers in their congressional testimonies, that’s always a win that isn’t celebrated enough. It can help bridge some of the gaps that can emerge when lawmakers want to hold agencies accountable for improving services without providing enough funding.
This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide, “Your Guide to Improving Customer Experience Through Inclusion, Engagement & Data.” Download the full guide here.
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