How CX Is Driving Government Modernization

Improving the "customer" experience (CX) for citizens interacting with the government has been a focus for several administrations. The reason is that better experience equals improved trust in government. It's critical that our systems live up to the promise of government for the people.

Defining the Pieces of CX

A critical part of getting experience right is understanding the different pieces that make up a customer experience. Words like "experience" and "service" are often used interchangeably when talking about CX efforts, but it is important to understand some key differentiators.

  • Customer Service is each interaction you have to complete a task. It is specific to a point in time and to a discrete interaction with a person or group of people.
  • User Experience is the way you interact with a piece of technology - be that an app, a website, a form, or a telephone call. Was it intuitive and easy to get done what you needed?
  • Customer Experience is the overall feeling you had with an organization. Was the technology easy to use, were the people you interacted with helpful and friendly, were you able to complete the task in a reasonable amount of time?

Attention must be paid to each of these areas to improve how people interact with an agency and how they feel about that interaction.

Measuring CX

Because, at its core, CX is a feeling, it can be hard to measure. There are a number of key metrics that attempt to quantify the subjective nature of experience.

  • Time to resolution - this may be the most concrete measure. How long did it take to resolve an issue, how long were you on hold, etc. Showing a reduction in this number is a key indicator that CX efforts are working.
  • Customer satisfaction - a measure of satisfaction gets tricky when dealing with many government services. Let's say you interact with the IRS and in the end, you find out you owe $5,000 in taxes. A negative result (even if it is warranted) can color how you feel about the experience. The service may be top notch with everything and everyone working as it should but when asked, "are you satisfied" the answer may skew negative.
  • Personalization - Consumers are used to a level of personalization when they interact with brands. Even with jokes about "Alexa always listening" or having Netflix or Amazon recommend things you may like is often helpful. However, when applied to government service, having a service representative know that you just had a spouse die or that you recently filed for student aid, this all-knowing government starts to feel like Big Brother. With the depth of personal information retained by the government, it should not be held to the same expectations of personalization as commercial companies.

To move CX from a "feeling" to a business practice, agencies across government are designing new technologies and processes with a human-centered lens.

CX as a Government Competency

The Department of Education recently updated the application for federal student aid, commonly known as the FAFSA, with an eye toward making the entire process easier. Key to this ease of use is the back-end integration with IRS data. Previously, applicants would have to visit to get income verification and information and then input that information into FAFSA forms. Today, that information is automatically transferred within the FAFSA application process. Additionally, the new form is much shorter. Applicants only see questions relevant to them, this means up to 26 questions could be skipped entirely. The form can now be filled out in as little as 18 questions. The previous form featured up to 103 possible questions.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has named CX as the driving force behind its modernization efforts. The DHS strategic plan highlights how CX impacts the agency's other top goals, such as improving cybersecurity, integrating AI, reducing technical debt, and leveraging data more effectively. These efforts are working. A recent survey of U.S. air travelers indicated that 93% of travelers are satisfied with their passenger experience with the Transportation Security Administration at security checkpoints.

To learn more about how the CX focus is changing government service, check out these resources:

To learn more about CX in government, explore additional events and resources on GovEvents and GovWhitePapers.

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