Investing in technology solutions that improve customer experiences is one of the best investments federal agencies can make. By improving the customer experience, agencies can help enhance productivity, mission focus, and the delivery of government services.
In an interview with Federal News Network, Evan Davis, Senior Vice President of Federal Civilian at Maximus, explained how improving the customer experience can help transform agencies.
“There’s very little difference for most agencies between improving customer experience and achieving the mission,” said Davis. “For the most part, whether the goal is to drive efficiency, build a more direct and usable communication chain out to your users, or give your agency greater insight and data to make policy decisions, those incredibly mission-focused attributes are all directly attributable to improved customer experience.”
Here are four steps agencies can take to improve customer experiences and improve mission focus.
1. Create a Unified Mission
At their core, government services should be about meeting the needs of the customer. For an agency to improve the customer experience, leaders should start by instilling a unified mission throughout the agency. Everyone involved in the delivery of services to the public should understand the mission and the desired outcome.
Focusing on customer experience will guide agency leaders in their decision-making. When the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) made changes to the language on their website, they kept the customer in mind. Using feedback from a customer survey a cross-functional team identified areas where they could reduce jargon and improve accessibility. These changes resulted in a significant improvement in customer satisfaction and the delivery of service.
2. Understand Customer Pain Points
For agencies to be able to improve customer experience, they must first understand customer needs and the common pain points they currently face accessing agency services. The most common method for finding these pain points is for agencies to conduct surveys that capture the thoughts of the constituents that use their services.
In a webinar, Davis discussed another method agencies can use to identify pain points. Davis said: “A widely untapped source of qualitative data about the customer experience comes from the people who work closely with the customers on a daily basis.” By putting together a panel of six to eight of these employees, agencies can gain key insights into how to address common pain points and better meet the needs of their customers.
3. Turn Data Insights into Impact
After agencies have the data from these surveys or customer service panels, they can use these insights to make impactful changes that improve customer experiences. In a webinar, Barbra Morton, Deputy Chief of Veterans Experience Office at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), discussed how the VA took data from a nation-wide survey to implement changes that addressed common pain points.
The survey found that their customers had difficulty navigating the VA’s medical centers. In response to this feedback the VA implemented the Red Coat Ambassador program. This program provided trained greeters to help veterans, their family members, and their caretakers to navigate the medical centers with ease. By identifying and addressing this common pain point, the VA saw an increase in customer satisfaction.
“A core piece of any customer experience journey is to have the capability to utilize those survey responses,” Morton explained. “We’ve really been able to elevate experiences [by using insights] from human-centered design and surveys… to help inform thinking and decision making.”
4. Enable Human-Machine Partnering
While machines will never replace the need for human contact, they can be used as a force multiplier to improve customer experiences. There are several types of automation technology that can help improve customer experiences, including website chatbots, eLearning for employees, and robotic process automation. By offering a variety of options, agencies can deliver a more personalized customer experience.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that offering a variety of platforms helped them achieve their mission. The CDC Vaccine Assistance Hotline was set up to get critical vaccine information to the public during the worst days of the global pandemic. However, the agency ran into challenges when trying to provide the public with equal access to this information.
As a result of customer research, team collaboration, and innovative thinking, the CDC found new ways to reach underserved communities with critical vaccine information. The CDC provided new media for the public, which helped to improve customer experiences and the delivery of their mission. These platforms included WhatsApp, SMS messaging, and toolkits for people with disabilities.
When agencies invest in customer experiences, they will find new and innovative ways to deliver services to their constituents. These four steps provide agencies with clear direction for how to approach transformative change and deliver certain success.
Learn more about how to improve customer experiences here.