There are countless ways that federal agencies can improve their federal services, but it can be difficult to determine which changes will improve the customer experience. By placing a focus on human-centered design, agencies can drive changes that will optimize and revolutionize the customer experience.
Human-centered design is a shared mindset within an organization that focuses on creating the best customer experience by putting the user at the center of everything it does. In a recent interview MaryAnn Monroe, Senior Director of Engagement Solutions and Services at Maximus, provided insights on how placing a focus on the customer’s needs can help to transform federal services.
“Putting customers at the center of designing services is critical,” Monroe said. “We must involve the people who will use the service or product from the beginning and throughout the design and development process in any technology product or service we deliver.”
Implementing human-centered design is an on-going effort that requires investments in research and collaboration. Agencies must listen to the key pain points that their constituents are grappling with and consider innovative ways to solve these problems.
“Excellent programs focus on customers and their needs,” Monroe said. “When we have that customer understanding, it enables us to prioritize and invest resources in delivering innovative programs, products, and services.”
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) focused on human-centered design when modernizing its MIDAS program. MIDAS is a web-based solution that delivers disaster assistance, pricing data, conservation, and other farm programs to farmers and ranchers. The USDA took feedback from their customers to modernize the MIDAS program that optimized the customer experience and program efficiency. As a direct result of these changes, the USDA decreased wait times for customers, improved employee workflow and productivity, increased customer satisfaction, and made significant savings on their budget.
Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) applied this same methodology when launching the Vaccine Assistance Hotline during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC found that Spanish speakers preferred to use WhatsApp as their primary method of communication, so they used this to relay vaccine information and availability. For people who didn’t have access to the internet, they provided SMS messaging and phone services. Additionally, the CDC provided people with disabilities and their caretakers with a CDC toolkit that was available in multiple formats, including Braille. By reaching out to constituents and taking the time to better understand their needs, the CDC achieved its mission to protect the public by providing additional services to customers and outreach and communication methods for relaying important vaccine information.
“Average programs focus on meeting minimum requirements,” Monroe said. “We must strive to go higher. There are many attributes that spur a program to excellence: lead with passion, provide employees with the tools and training they need to deliver on the mission and customer expectations, and be relentless in understanding customer needs to drive improvement and innovation.”
Innovation comes when agencies take the time to stop and look at the bigger picture. By taking the time to understand the customer’s needs, agencies will find new ways to transform federal services to optimize the customer experience.
Learn how to implement human-centered design methods to improve your agency’s customer experience here.