A survey released in April 2021 showed only 24 percent of the American public had trust in the Federal Government. This was up from 21 percent in 2020 but still near a historic low. Knowing this reality, the Biden Administration made improving customer service a cornerstone of the President's Management Agenda (PMA) Vision with a goal of "delivering excellent, equitable, and secure Federal services and customer experience." This was followed by the Executive Order, Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government, directing government leaders to account for the experiences of the public in seeking government services.
This Executive Order includes 36 customer experience (CX) improvement commitments across 17 Federal agencies, all of which aim to improve people's lives and the delivery of Government services. Services supporting the following focus areas were called out for immediate attention and improvement:
- Filing taxes
- Disaster recovery
- Financing education
- Managing VA healthcare
- Reducing barriers for those experiencing poverty
- Financing a business
- Supporting women, infants, and children
- Managing health
- Updating personal information once
This direction from the Federal Government also applies to state and local entities. Interaction with state and local agencies are the closest touchpoints for citizens and their experience at the local levels reflect on their perception of government as a whole. Government agencies at all levels can benefit from following the guidance in the Executive Order to improve citizen engagement in local government.
Moving from Call Centers to Contact Centers for better citizen engagement
The shift from a call center to a contact center is more than a semantic shift. Contact centers comprise the larger digital government goals, combining websites, digital forms, emails, and (yes, still) calls, under a single umbrella. This omni-channel approach is critical to meeting citizens where and when they want to interact. Moving to an integrated approach to service has proven to have a unique set of challenges. Organizations were buying digital apps and software, but the underlying networks and even telephony could not keep up. They found that technology alone cannot solve service issues. Agencies have to understand how citizens are interacting with them today and how they want to interact with them and then build solutions that address those very real scenarios.
Key shifts that must happen to make contact centers live up to the goals of the PMA are:
- Creating an experience hub - providing multiple options for people to interact, such as online self-service tools in addition to phone numbers and physical buildings.
- Using tools to proactively guide customers to the correct action.
- Providing experiences that are automated, automatic and self-service through human-centered design.
- Using personas to develop technology interactions - fictitious individuals that represent a portion of the population - to understand how the needs of an octogenarian who primarily speaks Mandarin might differ from a young caregiver trying to navigate Medicare for the first time.
- Integrating information and workflow so that no matter how someone arrives at a human agent, all the information is available and doesn't have to be repeated.
Managing an omni-channel approach
A handful of agencies have appointed Chief Customer Experience Officers to help centralize and oversee investment decisions around government citizen engagement. The Agriculture Department has made strides in centralizing their service and can serve as a model for how agencies can move forward. It launched AskUSDA to serve as the single "front door" to deliver a centralized contact center experience that aims to help customers get consistent and streamlined information. The program supports customer inquiries through the web, on the phone, through an online chat and email. Through analysis with its IT Modernization Center of Excellence, USDA consolidated 748 services that tried to serve 903 unique customer attributes.
Citizen service beyond agency walls
To meet the vision of the service goals of the PMA, agencies have to redesign their services with an eye toward interacting with other related services across government. For example, there can be connections between getting a business license and filing taxes, applying for student aid and receiving services through the WIC program, getting healthcare at a VA facility and applying for disaster recovery funds.
GovEvents and GovWhitePapers have a number of citizen engagement events and resources to help navigate the evolution of customer service in government.
- Data in Action Summit (April 27, 2022; virtual) - Data drives improved decision making for agencies advancing improving citizen services, managing transportation, tackling homelessness, reducing unemployment, and extending broadband accessibility--to name only a few. Leading executives from government and industry will share stories of how data helped address a variety of community issues. The lessons learned can offer a roadmap for others facing similar challenges by applying evidence- based decision making to the tasks.
- President's Management Agenda: Roadmap for Results (May 18, 2022; virtual) - The Administration's first President's Management Agenda holds the promise of a government that is equitable, effective and accountable, delivering results for American citizens. This discussion will tap the expertise of leaders from government to explore the impact and promise of the PMA.
- 22nd Annual Customer Experience Conference (May 19, 2022; webcast) - This event will explore the policies, applications and technologies involved with improving customer and employee experience with the ultimate goal of improving citizen services. Sessions are focused on improving customer experience and citizen engagement through all aspects of serving citizens: onsite, online, social media, mobile, contact center operations, and more.
- FedTalks 2022 (June 15, 2022; Arlington, VA) - Bringing together C-suite leaders from tech, gov and academia, FedTalks features lightning talks, keynotes, and fireside chats exploring the federal government's ongoing transformation efforts and adoption of modern technologies to provide better services to American citizens.
- Preparing Your Agency Website for the President's Management Agenda (white paper) - This comprehensive step-by-step guide is designed for government agencies of all sizes to help transition their websites to reflect the upcoming President's Management Agenda.
- Reinventing Civic Services With Intelligent Automation (white paper) - The mandate for modernization in citizen services has arrived and the expectations have changed for government services. Several forward-thinking jurisdictions have boldly stepped forward onto a new path to government service innovation. In doing so, their noteworthy achievements can now serve as a roadmap to emulate those jurisdictions similarly invested in driving revenue growth through responsive governance.