When Improving Citizen Experience Means Saving Lives

Passed in December, the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA) calls on agencies to make their CX experience much more inclusive and uniform. The Act also requires agencies to meet particular CX goals by certain deadlines.

So how are agencies doing?

In an engaging keynote at Tuesday’s GovLoop and Carahsoft Citizen Experience & Engagement Seminar, we heard from one agency leading the charge, the Veterans Affairs Department, who is working on transforming CX in government.

Lee Becker, Chief of Staff, Veterans Experience Office, Department of Veterans Affairs, spoke about the fact that the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) has one of the federal government’s most consequential missions – providing healthcare and other benefits to America’s military veterans. This means that CX is particularly critical during the VA’s interactions with veterans and their loved ones. The difference between good and bad service can be literally life or death, when it comes to veterans contemplating suicide, or serious health problems that need to be addressed.

“Customer experience means saving lives from the VA’s perspective,” Becker explained.

This means focusing more on emotion, experience, and business drivers rather than just buying new technology, Becker said. “Emotion is important and is the key to better citizen experience,” he noted.

To do that, today, the VA is hardwiring CX as a core capability in the department to provide the best experiences in delivery of care, benefits and memorial services to veterans and family.

And their plan is working. According to Forrester’s US 2018 Customer Experience (CX) Index based on 47 experience drivers, VA is one of two federal agencies that has improved their customer experience in the past year.

So what are they doing?

“We hardwired CX into the fabric of our organization,” Becker said. “One of most transformation things we did was a veteran journey map. Looking at the way the VA was interacting with veterans at different points in their lives was critical.”

Veteran journey maps identify VA care and benefits services available to veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors at different stages of their lives.

The VA strategic plan was then designated around the veteran experience and the journey map to drive a VA-wide focus and strategy on CX.

This move meant that VA started to strategically institutionalize CX goals in policy and operational decision-making to deliver exceptional customer experiences along three key pillars:

  • Pillar I: CX Core Capabilities & Framework: This drives improvements to individual service recovery and systems performance improvement using industry best practices and CX insights (i.e., HCD, CX data)
  • Pillar II: CX Governance: This hardwires CX data and insights into VA strategy, decision-making and management
  • Pillar III: CX Accountability: This infuses CX into performance metrics, budget strategy, policy, and operations

So what can other agencies learn from the VA’s moves into better CX? “People ask me, ‘Where do I start?’” Becker said. “And the answer is, just start. Just start the journey.”

That said, there are four core capabilities the VA is using on their CX journey that other agencies can implement and take advantage of: data, tools, technology, and engagement.

  • DATA: Capture and analyze the voices of Veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors
  • TOOLS Build and deliver tangible CX tools and products across VA
  • TECHNOLOGY Deliver easy and effective Veteran experiences through all communication channels
  • ENGAGEMENT Connect VA and local public / private services in a coordinated support network for Veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors

But no matter where you start, Becker said, you must always be asking yourself: does this meet mission need? Will it truly impact the lives of the people we are serving, and how?

“We should not be doing things for the sake of doing things; it should ultimately be for outcomes and making a difference,” Becker said. “Everything we do has to be making an impact for our veterans.”

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