2023 marks the fifth year of designated Federal High Impact Service Providers (HISPs) working as a cohort to build trust in government by improving service delivery, one customer interaction at a time. Across 17 agencies, the 35 HISPs, and the services they provide, touch millions of Americans every year, as they pay taxes, apply for retirement benefits, renew a passport, or plan a vacation at a National Park.
Since 2018, the original 25 HISPs have worked diligently to understand their own customer experience (CX) capabilities and focus on improvements that address their customers’ pain points when accessing Federal services. In 2021, an additional 10 HISPs joined the group, and since then they’ve made strides to improve delivery and grow as customer-focused organizations thanks to the lessons learned and strong foundations built by the work of the original 25 HISPs. Each year, OMB shares a readout of our learnings from across the HISPs’ capacity assessments and deep dive conversations.
TAKEAWAYS FROM 2023 ACTIVITIES
Designing Federal services with the public’s needs and priorities in mind requires both a clear understanding of how government service providers are performing today, and what is needed to improve their capacity to better deliver for Americans in the future. Every year, all HISPs complete a set of activities to help build this understanding. As a part of this series of activities, the 35 HISPs complete an annual CX Capacity Assessment, which provides HISPs with an opportunity to self-report their capacity and maturity levels across core functions of strong and effective CX delivery: measurement, governance and strategy, culture and organization, and service design and delivery, among others.
The OMB CX team then uses each HISP’s capacity assessment as a starting point to look closely at their unique accomplishments and areas for growth. In addition, reviewing all 35 capacity assessments together gives the CX team the opportunity to identify shared areas of success and opportunities for improvement, and to connect the dots where HISPs can learn from each other. The insights taken from the capacity assessments set the team’s direction for working with HISPs in the year ahead. With these insights in mind, the CX team then hosts a deep dive meeting with each HISP to not only discuss their capacity, but also collaboratively explore their work in greater detail to break down barriers and identify the highest-impact opportunities to improve their services. These intensive sessions help to jump start the work that catalyzes CX maturity in HISPs, and generates better delivery for the American public.
In 2023, the ~70 hours of deep dive conversations resulted in more than 250 action items to advance the work, and provided valuable insights about what challenges HISPs are facing and the ways in which the OMB team can best support their continued progress in CX. In addition to refining the HISP-specific roadmaps for progress, reflecting broadly on the assessments and deep dive meetings helped the OMB CX team to understand the most impactful drivers of progress from the past five years that can then inform the approach to continued improvement for HISPs in the next five years.
First, the CX team witnessed how journey maps and service blueprints – documents that show how a customer experiences a service, and how the organization interacts to deliver that service – are critical building blocks for each HISP. According to the results of the 2023 capacity assessment, only half of all designated services have a journey map or service blueprint. To make sure that HISP decision-making around service improvements can be rooted in the lived experience of customers and employees, the CX team is committed to supporting all HISPs to make meaningful progress on developing and using journey maps and service blueprints.
Second, HISP success is closely tied to the ability to directly and regularly hear from customers about their experience with services. While three quarters of HISPs are collecting customer feedback data about their services, fewer than half have a process in place to present customer data to leadership. To make sure that all HISPs are able to both collect and make use of customer feedback, the OMB CX team will work to help each HISP incorporate customer voices in two critical ways for each designated service: implementing a customer feedback survey aligned with best practices, and supporting HISPs to more comprehensively use data analytics, dashboards for leadership, and approaches that incorporate customer data into the most critical agency decisions.
Third, leadership buy-in is integral to an organization’s CX capacity and maturity, and the 2023 capacity assessment asked HISPs to reflect on their leadership’s involvement in CX work. 95% of HISPs shared that their leadership can clearly articulate why they are a HISP and why they’ve selected their designated service(s). 72% said they’ve been able to integrate CX measures into SES performance plans, GS performance plans, or both. HISPs are also benefiting from new CX-focused leadership roles that have been established to support CX: both CMS and USDA have a Chief Experience Officer leading on CX work across the organization, and 62% of HISPs shared that they can name their senior official that is accountable for CX efforts. Additionally, Deputy Secretaries are more plugged in to CX work than ever, connecting the work of their HISPs to Life Experience portfolios that they signed charters to establish. Overall, as HISPs continue to mature, sustaining and expanding leadership involvement will be critical to ensuring the ongoing success of CX improvements.
Fourth, in addition to leadership champions, doing CX work requires CX expertise. In the 2023 capacity assessment, 56% of HISPs stated that they have access to a customer experience strategist, 41% have access to a user experience designer, and 62% said they have access to customer feedback analysts, signaling that HISPs are making progress in bringing on the specific skillets needed to do CX work. However, when HISPs were asked to share how many additional staff with CX skillsets are needed to fully accomplish their CX goals, 72% of HISPs expressed a need for additional CX strategists, 56% expressed a need for additional user experience designers, and 69% shared a need for additional customer feedback analysts – demonstrating a meaningful need for more CX talent in government in order to continue to make progress towards CX goals.
Each of these elements, among other building blocks, are necessary to become a mature CX organization, and each HISP is on its own journey to build on their strengths and make sure the core elements of a strong CX program are in place. And while each HISP has a slightly different roadmap with unique goals, as a whole the HISP cohort continues to grow and improve. When the original 25 HISPs reflected on the past five years in the 2023 capacity assessment, 90% shared that they’ve improved on their capacity and maturity to deliver on CX goals, and 85% said they’ve increased the number of FTE dedicated to CX work.
As the OMB CX team plans for the next five years, the goal is to sustain these positive trends of increased maturity and expanded capacity by continuing to support all HISPs where it matters most. To achieve this, the CX team plans to focus on helping HISPs to continue to embrace and enact these themes in the year ahead:
- Adopting a service-design mindset helps HISPs to level up when delivering on their mission: Effective CX work means focusing on services, not programs. Importantly, services are viewed from the perspective of the customer and not the agency, and defining services often requires shifts in thinking and working by Federal employees. The success of CX efforts relies on HISPs being able to clearly articulate the product/offering they provide and mapping the accompanying service journey customers navigate so they can appropriately measure the performance of the specific service and meaningfully target improvements. Agencies that consistently walk in their customers’ shoes are better able to meet their needs, and the OMB CX team will continue to work with HISPs to embrace this approach.
- Customer feedback data helps leadership to make better decisions and agencies to deliver better services: Not all HISPs have customer feedback surveys in place, if they are in place they may not be administered in the context of a specific service journey, and the surveys that are being used can lack consistency with leading practices and guidance in A-11 Section 280. Additionally, HISPs collecting customer feedback are not yet making the most of the data being collected to inform specific service improvement priorities and leadership decision-making. Agencies currently fall short in many of these areas related to collecting and using customer data, which puts them at risk of failing to meet their mission. The OMB CX team is committed to providing technical assistance, tools, and templates to help HISPs bring a consistent flow of customer data to the rooms where decisions are made to not only make customer-driven continuous improvement possible, but business as usual.
- Human-centered design research is integral to good government, and there are more opportunities for agencies to put it to use: Many examples of successful human-centered design research exist in the federal government, but these approaches are not yet being widely used. For example, agencies still send out broad communications (e.g., letter mailers) without having tested it first with people that could receive them, do not A/B test website improvements and redesigns, and over-rely on requests for information (RFIs) and formal advocacy group communications rather than field research, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews with customers. The OMB CX team is working to share case studies and best practices to help HISPs to bring in customer voices early and often throughout service delivery.
- CX talent is ready to join government to help make services better for customers, they just need agencies to improve the hiring pathways: Constraints related to efficiently attracting, hiring, and organizing CX talent hinder HISPs’ work to implement comprehensive CX efforts and service improvements. This includes the process of getting new types of position descriptions (PDs) classified at an agency, re-aligning billets to appropriate homes in the organization, and supporting under-staffed talent teams so that they can manage processes efficiently. The OMB CX team is working with agencies to identify and address key blockers that prevent them from accessing the CX talent and skillsets they need to better serve the public.
- Best practice digital standards exist to make sure services are accessible to all Americans, agencies just need to embrace them: Many services are not yet available digitally, and those that can be accessed digitally are not consistently in alignment with federal standards, such as the U.S. Web Design System and other requirements outlined in the 21st Century IDEAct. When services are out of compliance with accessibility and digital best practices, it leaves many customers to face unnecessary burden or entirely without access to services they rely on. In partnership with the US Digital Service and the Office of the Chief Information Officer, the OMB CX team is developing resources and guidance that will help HISPs align with digital standards to better serve all of their customers.
WHAT’S AHEAD FOR CX & HISPS
Building on five years of lessons learned, the OMB CX team has developed a refined vision of elements and activities that should be present for HISPs to be successful at managing CX.
At a minimum, all HISPs should focus on at least two meaningful and well-scoped services, and should have an up-to-date understanding of how the service works from end-to-end, shown as a service blueprint or journey map. HISPs should have a structured approach for collecting, analyzing, and using operational and feedback data for service improvement, instrumenting the service journey with different approaches to feedback collection consistent with applicable law (e.g., surveys, regular intercept interviews, focus groups, digital service analytics tools). HISPs need a dedicated individual with a CX skillset, experience, and training that can help to manage and embed this work across the HISP’s efforts – it shouldn’t just be someone that happens to be in Budget or Performance shop’s “other duties as assigned.” More mature designated services should also clearly define performance measures at the service level, and conduct a holistic burden calculation that helps articulate the barriers to use among their customer segments.
Additionally, all HISPs should have engaged leadership that feel accountable for CX work, and that are building the processes and practices to bring customer data into decision-making. They should have a vision and plan for the structure of their CX organization, and a strategy for hiring CX and digital talent to make implementation possible. OMB has worked with teams to understand their need for customer experience strategists, customer researchers/user experience researchers, feedback analytics, content strategy and development, product management, and digital service delivery teams (including front-end/back-end design and engineering) FTE. Finally, as HISPs mature, they should have a theory of change that connects CX and employee experience and have conducted analysis across FEVS and other employee feedback mechanisms as it relates to CX measures.
As outlined in the President’s Budget for FY24, which proposed more than $500 million for CX efforts, strengthening organizational capacity and improving service delivery continues to be a focus government-wide. To support all HISPs to make progress on these goals and move towards an ideal state, the OMB CX team is prioritizing making the following statements true through the work of our own team’s focused technical assistance for HISPs, deliverables, and HISP workshops/trainings.
By the end of FY2024, all HISPs should have:
- Clearly defined, well-scoped, and meaningful service designations publicly available on performance.gov/cx
- Baseline service blueprints that identify customer pain points and opportunities to collect feedback
- The ability to collect and submit data to OMB from at least one survey with a trust question that meets data quality measures, for each designated service
- Access to a toolkit that provides guides and templates for customer research and community engagement
- An umbrella A-11 280 clearance in place at their respective agency, and maintain this clearance to continue to support CX work (all HISPs have this in place now)
- Access to an initial service scorecard that outlines core elements and success measures to assess and improve their services in line with 21st Century IDEA and customer expectations of simple, seamless, and secure experiences
- Access to certified potential hires to fill critical CX positions resulting from a third government-wide CX SME-QA hiring effort
- The opportunity to benefit from an organizational design cohort focused on standing up CX offices in a way that supports CX success, to support enacting proposals in the FY24 President’s Budget
- The opportunity to be trained in agile, CX-informed procurement processes, and capabilities to improve HISP contracting
- The opportunity to learn more about and make progress on establishing and improving consistent Voice of the Customer programs, systems, and practices to enable a holistic approach to customer feedback
As always, continue to track performance.gov/cx as we share ongoing reflections, updates, and resources.
 As directed in Executive Order 14058 Section 6 and further outlined the Federal Performance Framework (OMB Circular A-11, Section 280), all HISPs complete set activities annually, including capacity assessments, action planning, and customer feedback data reporting, among others, that help to support improved service delivery and grow CX capacity. Specific dates and timelines for each year can be found in A-11, Section 280.