Blog Insights
Prioritizing an Inclusive Customer Experience in Government

Late last year a new Executive Order focused attention on what many government agencies already strive to do: provide an efficient, reliable customer experience  (CX) to citizens accessing government services like passports, social security, and small business loans.

In many ways, the executive order, Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government, does mark a transformative shift in mindset. Agencies traditionally oriented toward serving the “American public” are now asked to understand that public as customers—customers who deserve and demand excellence in customer service. 

In our recent webinar, we looked at the challenges and opportunities behind this shift, and how government agencies can embrace lessons from the private sector to achieve excellence in customer experience.

Not part of a government agency? Don’t worry—these lessons are for you too. While government has a mandate, all mission-driven organizations can gain insights into user-focused mindsets to deliver greater impact and engagement.

To consider a customer-first experience at your organization, start with three questions:

1)    Where do we start?

Most agencies already have strategic plans in place that prioritize modern, equitable, transparent services. The Executive Order may fine-tune these approaches or may demand new methodologies.

Embark on a gap analysis to discover where you are today, where your plans are headed, and what changes you may need to make. Consider timelines and budgets: are there key seasons for your services? (The IRS can’t launch new platforms in early April, any more than FEMA can roll out new processes in the middle of hurricane season). If new investments are needed, are there acquisition deadlines you must prepare for? Last, establish ownership protocols. Transformational service changes will realistically touch many departments, but understanding who will lead, and who will support and champion the process, are key to success.

2)    What about accessibility?

Focus on inclusive products and processes. 508 compliance is a great start, but the Executive Order specifically focuses on serving people with disabilities and those traditionally underserved, left out, or denied access. On average, 13% of Americans have a disability, but the number varies greatly by region, age, and other factors. Work to understand accessibility not just as a blanket term or a digital accommodation, but what it means to the communities you serve.

3) How do we best anticipate the public’s needs?

The Executive Order pinpoints “customer life experience” as the important points in a person’s life that prompt interaction with one or more entities of Government—think retirement, or birth. Considering the triggers for different services, and the commonalities among people at those stages can help anticipate customer needs and touchpoints—the forms, systems, and processes customers will have to use. Then, use data you may already have to refine what you know. Call logs, service requests by email, and FAQs you respond to over and over again are all clues to mapping and anticipating customer experience needs. 

Achieving transformational CX is a complex process. It can’t happen overnight. But with a better understanding of the challenges outlined above, there are actions you can take now to get started:

1) Map your timelines. What are the deadlines, cyclical considerations, and budget planning processes that guide you? What is your endpoint, and goal posts along the way?

2) Think holistically about access. Ask about every plan and project: Who won’t this work for? Age, location, internet access, comfort with technology, and available time are all considerations that will shape your products and processes, alongside accommodations for people with disabilities.

3) Leverage customer data. Explore the customer feedback you have. Mine the data for lessons: When do you see an uptick in use? What forms get used, and what forms get abandoned? What common problems can you eliminate for users?

4) Draw lessons from others. Look to strong service providers among peer agencies and non-profits. Forum One has been fortunate to work with the General Services Agency (GSA), at the forefront of good government CX, but many other agencies, non-profits, and for-profit companies can be a source of inspiration.

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