New Guidance Gives Federal Agencies a Clear Roadmap to Delivering Great Customer Experiences

New Guidance Gives Federal Agencies a Clear Roadmap to Delivering Great Customer Experiences

By Cal Shintani, Chief Growth Officer at HighPoint Global

While the federal government hasn’t traditionally been a leader in delivering great customer experience (CX), things are changing. The current administration has sharpened the Obama-era focus on improving CX as a cross agency priority, making it a focus of the President’s Management Agenda (PMA). The PMA clearly articulates the need for an improved CX and federal centers of excellence.

Building on the PMA, the government’s commitment to better overall CX continues with the introduction of Section 280 of the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Circular A-11. Titled “Managing Customer Experience and Improving Service Delivery,” Section 280 provides guidance for establishing the CX framework laid out in the PMA. It specifically relates to “High-Impact Service Providers” – federal agencies that provide the most citizen-facing services. It defines CX as “a combination of factors that result from touchpoints between an individual, business, or organization and the Federal Government over the duration of an interaction and relationship,” including:

  • Ease/simplicity
  • Efficiency/speed
  • Equity/transparency of the process
  • Quality of the service
  • Helpfulness of service delivery employees

These are the CX metrics that will be used to measure agencies. Agencies need to develop processes that allow them to capture and act on data that informs these outcomes so they can continuously improve CX, just like private sector organizations.

Going Beyond the Private Sector

Companies like Amazon, USAA, and others have built trust and goodwill among their customer bases in part by providing excellent customer service, whether it’s online or on the phone. These companies have conditioned customers to have a certain level of expectation when it comes to customer service interactions – helpful, smooth, informative, and efficient.

With Section 280, the government is not just ripping a page directly from the private sector’s CX playbook — it’s drawing a roadmap that agencies can use to go even further than their private sector brethren. Government agencies have an enormous opportunity to really connect with citizens and deliver customized CX and services that directly and positively impact citizens’ lives. Indeed, Section 280 lays out a path for meeting the PMA’s call for “a customer experience that compares to – or exceeds – that of leading private sector organizations” by pointing out exactly where federal agencies should focus in order to develop exceptional CX.

Measuring the Customer Journey

OMB notes that measuring CX from beginning to end must be a top priority. Section 280 lists three “measurement levels” that comprise that experience:

  • Transaction: Measuring the customer perspective after a single, stand-alone transaction. Examples could include visiting a government website, soliciting a question via an online form, or purchasing a park pass.
  • Journey: Measuring the customer perspective after a series of transactions or completion of a multi-stage process. Applying for and receiving federal student aid or filing taxes are a couple of examples that could fall under this level.
  • Relationship: Measuring the customer perspective based on the lifetime of their engagement and transactions with an agency or agencies. This is the collective measurement of all of the interactions that an individual may have with the federal government.

This type of in-depth and ongoing analysis, known as journey mapping, is absolutely essential if the government is to truly develop closer and more impactful relationships with their citizens, gaining their. Agencies cannot truly learn about citizens simply by responding to and monitoring an initial transaction. Journey mapping involves capturing the actions, thoughts, feelings, and emotions of customers at each point of interaction. This allows agencies to put themselves in their citizens’ shoes so that they can tailor their service approach and offerings to the specific needs of those citizens. It helps build the solid, lasting, and trusted relationships that government agencies desire.

Measuring the Agencies’ Efforts

Accountability is a major component of Section 280. OMB requires agencies to submit “data dashboards” on a quarterly basis and create CX Action Plans to be published in agencies’ annual performance reports and eventually on Performance.gov.

CX Action Plans and data dashboards are important in setting the tone for agencies’ overall goals related to CX functions and ensuring that agencies continually improve their CX service delivery.  OMB is asking agencies to include several components within their Action Plans, including accountability for how CX resources will be organized and managed; self-assessments to guide program maturity; ongoing data collection and metrics analysis; and initiatives pertaining to delivery improvement. Data dashboards complement these plans by providing ongoing checkpoints that provide honest assessments of each agency’s progress.

Private sector companies with exemplary reputations for delivering a great CX have implemented similar processes. They have developed preliminary visions and goals for individual employee execution and augmented those visions through continuous assessment and analytics-driven reporting throughout the entire customer journey.

OMB offered federal agencies license to take what many private organizations already know about taking an exceptional CX to another level. With the clear direction provided by Section 280, agencies have a detailed roadmap for creating organizational accountability and a CX culture within government. With this roadmap, I’m looking forward to seeing how Federal agencies deliver on the PMA’s promise to “transform the customer experience.”