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Government Agencies to Shift Towards a CX Mindset

Alex Dunlop

Director of Business Development, Government Services, Forum One

The drive towards government modernization has accelerated since the release of the 2017 President’s Management Agenda (PMA) highlighted it as a driver of improved performance overall. While this often translates to spending more on IT infrastructure overhauls and moving data to the cloud, it also includes a shift towards a more Customer Experience (CX) approach to technology and services.

A recent IRS study found the cost of not upgrading legacy systems to outweigh the cost of modernizing. As government agencies across the country are starting to make the cost-effectiveness argument in favor of upgrading, there is another change underway, and it’s more of a mindset shift than a new tech tool: adopting Customer Experience (CX) as an approach to the way government provides services to its citizens.

We as consumers, increasingly expect interactions with vendors to be smooth and prompt: we expect quick responses from vendors, clear instructions, and prompt delivery. But we also expect these interactions to feel good and remind us that “the customer is always right.” Amazon, UPS and the rise of e-commerce has changed our habits and our mindset when it comes to consuming commercial goods. Human-centered design and user-centered design has reinforced this mindset.

We as taxpayers, often have personal stories of frustration when it comes to fulfilling our civic duties — from filing taxes to renewing our drivers’ licenses or submitting a medicare claim. (Not to pick on the IRS, but the 2018 tax-day crash of IRS’s core payment system didn’t help. They had to extend the tax deadline by a day to remedy the situation.)

Increasingly, though, government agencies are paying attention and starting to take a CX approach to provide services to citizens. Borrowing from the private sector, they are using data to track and make progress and leaning heavily on digital tools to make this happen.

And this isn’t completely new. The U.S Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted a study in 2014 on a select number of agencies to evaluate how they were meeting citizen needs (spoiler alert: they didn’t fare too well). The most recent study of federal government services conducted by the American Consumer Satisfaction Index showed a recent decline in customer satisfaction. So there is work to do. And the 2017 PMA has raised its prominence for all agencies. Services are too often structured to reflect the government bureaucracy that provides the service, rather than the needs of the customer. Many government websites are arranged in this way, reflecting silos, departments, and bureaus rather than the actions a citizens needs or wants to take. It forces a citizen/customer to adapt to the needs of the service provider rather than the other way around.

Congress recently revived a proposal for legislation called the Federal Agency Customer Experience Act (FACE), to make it easier for federal agencies to collect customer experience data, and track and share it with tools created by the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Whether this legislation goes ahead or not, it’s clear that CX will continue to play a much larger role in government agencies’ digital strategies going forward.

How can government agencies start adopting a CX approach?

As the trend continues in the direction of developing more efficient and helpful services for citizens, agencies can do a number of things to shift their mindset towards CX.

  • Reiterate your mission and keep it as your North Star. Set clear goals, identify audiences, and make room for culture (for more on all this, watch our recent webinar recording on government modernization).
  • Learn from other agencies who are doing it already. GSA’s Center of Excellence (COE) initiative is accelerating this transformation in multiple agencies. One of the six functional areas of COEs is CX.
  • Embrace emerging technologies. More and more Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools are getting tested in government, which holds promise for improved CX. For example, natural language processing (NLP) can increase the accuracy of chatbots to find and access the right answer. How might these technologies help citizens better access your information?

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Written By

Alex Dunlop

Director of Business Development, Government Services, Forum One