CAP goal PMA
It can seem daunting to know where to start on the journey towards continual measurement and sophisticated management of your customers’ experiences. In government in particular, those responsible for delivering services can feel like there is a lack of sufficient resources, talent, and leadership support to enable good customer experience (CX) practices.
While direct investment is important over the long term, there are also a number of low-cost, low-lift actions that can contribute to a positive difference in how citizens experience your agency’s services.
Here are some actions you (a Federal employee at any level!) can take within your agency:
1. Identify and describe your customers in detail. First, identify all of the different types of customers that interact with your service. Then push yourself a level further. For example, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) may primarily interact with “banks” – but who in that organization is reaching out to the FHA call center? What role are they in? How are they ultimately interacting with the end customer of the program: families securing a loan to purchase their home? Can you identify groups and types of customers? Can you describe their challenges and goals? You likely have treasure troves of administrative data you can mine, even simply in Microsoft Excel by making some basic charts. This can help you approach quantitative analysis like a customer segmentation exercise. It doesn’t require leaving your desk, buying a service, or even being a data wizard – maybe just finding some colleagues and spending two hours at a whiteboard. Having a good understanding of your customers and their requirements is the first step towards being able to design services that fit their needs.
2. Issue a data call across the organization. Try and find all of the surveys going out to customers and get a baseline of what data exists, how it’s being used, and how much is being spent to collect it. Use that baseline to inform Voice of the Customer efforts going forward, which will get you that in-depth customer understanding mentioned above. Example data fields include:
- Survey Name
- Target Audience
- Next Survey Date
- Estimated Burden to Complete (in minutes)
- Point of Contact
- Satisfaction Metric
- Survey Scale
3. Make friends with your contact centers. Ask them what the top customer issues are (better yet, ask for Interactive Voice Response / Customer Relationship Management datasets to see which option customers are selecting most often) and compile them for your leadership. Invite your manager to listen to contact center calls. Staff working on the front lines of customer service have invaluable insights into the difficulties your customers are facing. Solicit their feedback and make visible changes based on their recommendations. This can be as basic as updating a call center script with a commonly-asked question that experienced call center representatives receive.
4. Informally talk to users that you know. Whether it’s a family member, coworker, or the cashier in the grocery store, ask them about their general impressions of your service and find out what has led them to their opinion. Discover what is most difficult for them and ask how they would make it better. This is an easy way to get started on a small scale with customer research. As you advance, try to include your customers in a more formal way, whether in team huddles, meetings, or even strategic planning sessions. Under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), you may interview up to nine customers without obtaining formal PRA approval. While this may seem like a small number, it can still help you document insights and inform areas that deserve more attention. Get public input on your services, especially on new programs. Learn more about PRA implications for talking more formally with customers, and use the templates provided by the CX CAP Goal Team to start your clearance process.
5. Get visual. Print out and display your customer research findings in a central space (like a lobby wall) that people frequent and invite them to add their thoughts and reactions (have some sticky notes and markers in front of it). Leverage innovative ideas suggested by your fellow colleagues. People often have ideas of even small tweaks that could really improve experiences for both customers and employees; they just need to be prompted to share! This can not only improve your CX program, but can also lead to more engaged employees.
6. Read your agency’s strategic plan and map it to user needs. Few people have a wide viewpoint and theory of change linking their services on the ground to where their agency is heading, yet it is all publicly available. Review your agency’s priorities and think of ways that CX could fit into the agency’s future goals. Look for gaps in the plan and devise ways to incorporate CX into future strategies.
7. Map your service and make it simple. How would you explain the major steps, touch points, and timelines to those unfamiliar with how government works? Break it down to the most essential elements. Understanding how your customers navigate your service is a key step to identifying and fixing redundancies, roadblocks, and pain points.
8. Consider the broader environment and context of your service. Take 90 minutes and form an opinion about where customer expectations are heading. Search for recent news articles about your service and customer expectations, and compile your thoughts into a 1-2 page document. Present this document up your chain of command and get feedback along the way. By anticipating your customers’ future needs, you are in a much better position to proactively take steps to make their journeys easier.
9. Use peer pressure effectively. Hold a brown bag for teammates, other parts of your organization, and even invite leadership to discuss the CX Cross-Agency Priority Goal, High-Impact Service Provider (HISP) requirements (and recommendations to all agencies) in A-11 Section 280, and recent legislation like the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act. Frame CX as an operational benefit, and let colleagues know they have the opportunity to lead as part of their everyday job by asking questions about how everyday implementation decisions impact the customer.
10. Find industry analogs that are delivering good CX. How do private sector companies handle similar topics (e.g., insurance, safety, entertainment, liability, travel) or functions (e.g., applying, choosing, planning, transacting, reminding, recommending)? Delivering on good CX doesn’t mean you need to reinvent the wheel. Borrow leading practices and leverage ideas from across industry and government to help make your programs shine. This could include basic operations like the way an online retailer provides an update on the timing of a delivery, or how a process informs you of what will happen next.
11. Find ways to recognize and reward good CX behavior. Rewards need not be expensive or involve a large ceremony. Taking the time to call out good deeds can go a long way towards normalizing these behaviors in your organization. Consider adding a shout-out to your weekly newsletter, printing award certificates, and giving your star employees a public pat-on-the-back at team meetings or huddles, explaining how they incorporated a customer focus into something they did. Top performers can become your future CX champions within services or departments.
12. Communicate your CX successes. Whether among teams, programs, departments, or across your agency, elevating your CX wins will gain visibility and traction for CX activities. Ideally, make your success public through websites or social media platforms. Enlist your public affairs office to help spread the good news.
13. Encourage managers to consider CX skills when hiring new employees. Even if someone will not be directly interacting with customers, ask questions about your office’s service or mission to see if candidates are able to think about it from the customer’s perspective. Incorporate role-playing into interviews, particularly for front line staff. Look for people who are empathetic, nurturing, and can communicate well. Hiring staff who are connected to your mission and have compassion for your customers will pay dividends in not just future customer interactions, but also organizational decision-making.
14. Increase your CX knowledge and network. The CX CAP Goal team offers a number of free trainings and tools, many of which are available on OMB MAX*. Leverage these free resources to learn more about journey mapping, core CX competencies, website analytics, and more. Join the HISP monthly calls, CX community of practice, and attend networking events. Connecting with other CX professionals across government can give you new ideas for your program.
Delivering on good customer experience is not a quick or easy proposition. But by taking some of the “small” actions above, you can get started no matter your role or budget. You will start to transform your program and even your broader agency’s approach to delivering for the public.
∗ OMB MAX can only be accessed by federal employees.