Reflection on Federal Customer Experience Efforts in FY20
By Federal CX Team
PMA Service Design
As we reflect on the third year of the President’s Management Agenda and Cross-Agency Priority Goal on Improving Customer Experiences with Federal Services, we recognize both the history around this journey and how excited we are about the road ahead. This year felt like another big stepping stone for the further integration of Customer Experience (CX) as a function of government as 25 High Impact Service Providers (HISPs) continue to develop new capabilities, our team launched several new initiatives and programs, and we work to lay the groundwork for further progress.
Continued progress on A11 Section 280
This past year our HISPs completed their second year of the annual activities outlined in OMB Circular A-11 Section 280. According to Forrester’s US Federal Customer Experience Index, 2020 report, the quality of the US federal customer experience achieved its highest scores ever with the 15 US federal agencies and programs earning an average score of 61.1, a gain of 1.4 points over 2019. As we look ahead, both that report and our progress to date highlight while we continue to improve CX outcomes, we continue to have a lot of opportunity in front of us. With that in mind, the CX CAP Goal Team analyzed the collective HISP results from our annual Capacity Assessments as well as reviewed our forward-looking Action Plans. We continue to be inspired by the impressive public servants across government who are deeply connected to their mission and the people that they serve.
2020 Maturity Assessments
The maturity assessment evaluates HISP capacity to manage customer experience on a 35-point scale across the five CX functions outlined in A-11 Section 280: Measurement, Governance & Strategy, Culture & Organization, Customer Understanding, and Service Design & Improvement. This year the average score was
There is an overall increase in survey and qualitative research activity. Nearly 80% of HISP’s reported actively surveying customer segments and/or building capability to capture data and information. Several HISP’s are actively using Touchpoints, a survey tool provided by GSA’s TTS to help make collecting feedback easier for agencies. The data and insights are being used to inform program/product development, service delivery, and to better understand opportunities to improve agency effectiveness. You can read more about what we’ve learned from this analysis in our reflection on FY20 feedback data.
Access to the right skills and talent was again cited as one of the greatest capacity gaps. Having the right skills with the right experience is critical to maturing our CX capabilities. Several HISPs that reported lack of staff with CX experience to be a barrier to effective implementation particularly in areas around design and product development.
Three is an increasing recognition of the connection between Employee Experience and Customer Experience. Many HISPs have found an intuitive place to start improving the experience of their customers by tackling pain points felt by their employees. TSA and VA in particular have begun exploring administrative, employee feedback, and customer feedback data to identify specific locations for employee initiatives.
It remains difficult to keep CX a focus among competing priorities. Leadership continues to be incentivized to focus on other items, and HISPs cite leadership engagement as the number one item that enables their customer-focused work. Leadership support is often necessary for shepherding information collection review requests through internal agency review processes, hiring new types of talent, putting in upfront effort into customer understanding work, navigating procurements in a more agile way, and other critical activities that cannot simply be “grass- roots.”
2020 Action Plans
In addition to their annual assessments our HISP community also delivered a range of forward-looking Action Plans, sharing individual progress and future plans with the public. Building upon prior year efforts the Action Plans represent a variety of projects across our core functions with different timelines and impacts. As we transition to more year over year reporting, we’ll continue to recognize consistent areas of action across HISP’s (e.g. call center, process/digital, training, governance) and highlight learnings, identify trends, and important milestones to ensure consistent, continuous improvement.
Below is a snapshot and highlights cross functional opportunities being addressed by multiple agencies with some examples within each:
Call center improvements, adding functionality, and streamlining processes
- Increase call back functionality to reduce wait times (Treasury/Internal Revenue Service/Online Services)
- Reducing Average Speed of Answer times (SSA/Social Security Card Issuance/Processing, Retirement, SS Disability Benefits)
Continued Implementation of customer experience surveys and feedback
- Using feedback directly from employees to share learnings and improve outcomes (Dept of State/Passport Services Office/Passport Issuance & Processing)
- Leverage Touchpoints to ascertain if information is useful for the customer across channels (USDA, OSHA, DHS/CBP/Customs & Entry Processing - Traveler Communication Center (TCC))
- Use feedback to develop report, data, and actions plans to better support transition (VA/Veterans Benefits Administration/Veterans Pension Benefits & Veterans Disability Benefits)
Further embedding CX in strategic planning activities and governance structure
- Establishing governance to institutionalize CX across the agency including practice, measures, and incentives (HUD, BTFA)
Continue building CX training for employees
- Develop robust training for field operations including communities of practice and recognition (DHS/TSA/Airport Security Screening, VHA)
- Provide online training with site specific worksheets and planning documents (DOI/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services/Visitor Services)
- Building out an omnichannel customer experience including video verification for claims (DHS/FEMA/Emergency and Disaster Relief)
- Direct access to claim and files and new digital/paper experience for recertification (Dept of Ed/Student Financial Aid/Federal Student Aid)
- Transition from paper based to full scale integrated, digital journey (OPM/Retirement Services)
Our team will continue to work with the HISPs in the coming months to identify any barriers to implementation of the Plans. Progress will be tracked with the next HISP Action Plan update expected to be published in Fall 2021.
2020 Cross-Government Initiatives
On top of individual agency efforts to implement A11 Section 280, our team oversaw and partnered on the development of several new initiatives to support government-wide CX adoption and growth. A few highlights include:
- The General Services Administration’s (GSA) Office of Customer Experience (OCE) released the Customer Experience Services Evaluation and Buying Guide. This resource is intended to answer questions and provide guidance to agencies looking to build their Customer Experience (CX) capacity through Human-centered Design (HCD) support services.
- Working with USDS and OPM, our team also ran the Customer Experience Hiring Pilot through the first-ever government-wide SME-QA process to attract more CX talent to the Federal Government. More than 800 applicants applied for 30 new “CX Strategist” positions across more than a dozen agencies. Twenty Subject Matter Experts reviewed, interviewed, and selected a cohort of amazing talent in six weeks. We recently kicked off our pilot cohort of more than 18 outstanding individuals, many starting a role in Federal service for the first time.
- Working with the Lab at OPM this summer, we developed and launched a new CX training program called Amplify geared towards supporting Federal teams seeking to mature their customer understanding practices (one of the lowest-scoring functions across all HISPs in both FY19 and FY20 CX maturity assessments). Quickly shifting its entire format due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program included remote town hall convenings, six training modules with accompanying videos, remote coaching from Lab Service Designers, and share-out forums. All of the modules are available to Federal agencies on OMB Max. By focusing on understanding customer contexts and needs the development of Federal products and services is more certain to meet their needs, resulting in more positive experiences with those agencies. After reorienting the program to be entirely virtual, it carried forward with six Federal agencies and completed in August.
- Working with GSA’s TTS Feedback Analytics team, we partnered with the leaders of 24 services, such as VA outpatient care and Farmers.gov, to build a Cross Agency CX Dashboard. The intent is to collect feedback from the public so we can better understand what matters to them, target service improvements accordingly, and discuss best practices to improve CX operations. We are now collecting more than 1.1 million surveys per quarter. Correlation analysis on that data suggests ease of completing a service online, and the efficiency or amount of time to do so strongly influence satisfaction and trust. An update to performance.gov/CX on September 17 showcases some of this data and we will continue to update this site to publish feedback data from all the HISPs.
As we round out the year, the CX team is working on a few fronts to ensure we properly bridge our current efforts with a clear roadmap to continue building service delivery and customer experience management capabilities into agency operations, in the 2021 President’s Management Agenda and beyond.
As part of these efforts the team is currently working on an extensive Federal strategy focused on creating the next phase of bolder actions to take to transform public service delivery. As part of this engagement, we have developed two customer journey maps focused on individuals with a disability and individuals surviving a disaster must navigate public services—both life are experiences that involve not just multiple Federal agencies, but multiple levels of government. Through this research, we will highlight and identify areas in which structural, budgetary, legal, cultural, and other barriers are preventing 21 st century service delivery.
Finally, we’re assessing a range of governance models (from Chief Experience Officers, Heads of Products, or alignment of agencies around critical life events) that could help to provide accountability for the ways in which the public actually experiences government. And, we want to continue to update and refine A-11 Section 280, with leading practices in how mature CX and service delivery organizations manage and measure themselves.
We’re very excited about the progress our HISP partners have made and the community of practitioners actively supporting one another. The ability of our enterprise to continuously improve based on customer feedback s will be critical to our service delivery efforts now and into the future.