How does federal CX stack up against the private sector? Not well

Placeholder image for FCW article template

Customer experience (CX) is as crucial in the federal government as it is in the private sector. Yet federal CX is seriously lagging.

Forrester ranked the quality of 15 federal agencies using our Customer Experience Index methodology, which measures how well an organization’s CX strengthens its mission performance. The average federal score was 59 out of 100 -- that’s statistically unchanged from the past two years and 10 points below the average private sector score of 69.

So why are these federal agencies so far behind the curve in customer experience? Two reasons: They struggle with digital experiences and fail to focus on the key drivers of CX.

Lagging digital experiences drag down federal CX. Customers who used digital channels (such as email, website and social media) rated their experiences five points lower than customers who used physical channels (like brick-and-mortar locations and call centers). In fact, federal customers consider their experiences with digital channels to be difficult, ineffective and emotionally negative. Only half of federal customers who used digital channels could accomplish their goals for interacting with an agency and 64 percent said their experiences left them feeling negative.

Government also fails to address the parts of the experience that matter most. Forrester analyzed the impact of 47 drivers of federal CX quality and grouped them into seven categories -- process, customer service, showing respect, website and mobile app, offices, communication and fees.

Of these seven drivers, three stood out as the most important for great CX: Process, customer service and showing respect. Unfortunately federal agencies perform worst on these most critical elements. For instance, less than half of federal customers said they could get help quickly when they needed it. What’s more, just 46 percent of federal customers said they feel respected -- a nine percentage-point drop year-over-year.

These numbers aren’t just embarrassing -- they’re harmful to federal mission performance. That’s because the quality of an agency’s CX impacts customer behaviors -- such as their willingness to comply with an agency’s guidance or apply for benefits and services -- that ultimately affect that agency’s ability to accomplish its mission.

To gain the trust and loyalty of its customers and accomplish its own goals, Washington must improve the parts of CX that contribute the most to mission success.

About the Author

Rick Parrish is a principal analyst with Forrester.


  • People
    Federal CIO Suzette Kent

    Federal CIO Kent to exit in July

    During her tenure, Suzette Kent pushed on policies including Trusted Internet Connection, identity management and the creation of the Chief Data Officers Council

  • Defense
    Essye Miller, Director at Defense Information Management, speaks during the Breaking the Gender Barrier panel at the Air Space, Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 19, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Chad Trujillo)

    Essye Miller: The exit interview

    Essye Miller, DOD's outgoing principal deputy CIO, talks about COVID, the state of the tech workforce and the hard conversations DOD has to have to prepare personnel for the future.

Stay Connected


Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.