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Why CX in government is no longer optional

Customer Experience federal 

Customer experience (CX) in the federal sector is more important than ever. Customer expectations have changed drastically in the last decade, pushing the bar for customer service standards ever higher. Believe it or not, Salesforce reports that 80% of consumers say the experience an organization provides is just as important as its products and services. What's more, 64% of consumers expect organizations to interact with them in real-time. Actually delivering customer service that lives up to these high standards is indeed challenging.

In the federal sector, comprehensive CX programs largely have yet to be implemented. From Medicare and Social Security benefits, to airport security and veterans' programs, citizens' tax dollars fund these critical services. Customer experience should be on par or better than in the private sector. But according to a recent report by the American Customer Satisfaction Index titled Citizen Satisfaction Retreats as Quality of Federal Government Services Wanes, after two consecutive years of improvement, citizen satisfaction with government services has dipped.

The report rates Americans' satisfaction with federal government services at 68.9 points out of 100. Improved CX would go a long way toward ensuring America's trust in government.

But can government agencies actually measure the impact of the customer experience they deliver? The answer is a resounding yes. While it's true that individual impressions are subjective, a comprehensive CX program can objectively quantify the impact of citizen experience by stitching together an agency's operational data and analytics, along with user feedback, to measure CX. A comprehensive CX program brings together real-time engagement metrics, operations data and other enterprisewide data points under one dashboard.

Once CX is measured, improvements can be made through service innovations such as 24/7 online virtual help desks and digitized paperwork. Instead of placing telephone callers with questions about their government benefits on hold until a representative is available to speak, technology can now predict customers' questions and concerns. AI-enabled chatbots can be integrated to route calls, answer repetitive questions and more efficiently process overall customer call volume. Similarly, when digital forms replace stacks of paperwork, it is mutually beneficial: the customer has a streamlined experience and the agency sees heightened productivity.

A comprehensive CX program involves three steps.

First, agencies must gain an understanding of their current end-to-end CX experiences through journey mapping. This exercise helps identify any negative elements undermining the customer experience, such as a confusing website layout or long wait times for service or billing questions. Such service issues are often hidden from the view of management, making them difficult to monitor, analyze and improve, that is, until it's too late.

Second, a CX program must quantify measurable benchmarks, like satisfaction, feedback, engagement rates and agency deliverables to understand the impact of negative experiences. Quantifying these factors can help provide a baseline of current performance. For example, being treated as a "just a number" instead of an individual will have 66% of consumers looking elsewhere. The identification of current performance rates gives the agency metrics to compare new solutions against. For example, after realizing lengthy in-person lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles were hindering customer service and bogging down workers, Virginia DMVs now allows drivers to report the return of license plates and register vehicles online. Prior to July 1, 2019, customers were required to visit a DMV customer service center to deactivate license plates.

Third, solutions must be identified based on the data collected. Using the customer service example above, a CX program would monitor results on license plate and registration returns. If the new solution outperforms the baseline, it should be rolled out across the enterprise. Since Virginia implemented the online license plate service, more than 1,000 residents have taken advantage of the program. The high level of interest means additional states are likely to implement a similar solution.

These three steps can empower agencies to identify and quantify negative moments in their customers' experience, develop solutions for improvement and then measure the performance of those improvements in order to calculate a clear return on investment. Doing so once is not enough. Rather, once completing this cycle initially, agencies should identify the next negative experience that needs to be fixed or improved.

While digital transformation is an important factor in a successful CX, customer service is rarely 100% technological. People expect speedy solutions to their specific issues -- but simultaneously, they expect personalized service, which is not 100% dependent on digital solutions.

In the era of big data, comprehensive CX programs are recommended for any enterprise to understand every aspect of customer interaction and perception. Though much has changed, that old adage that "the customer is always right" endures.

About the Author

Allison Mataya is executive vice president of brand, marketing and customer experience for DMI.

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