Misplaced emphasis drags down agencies’ CX rankings

Misplaced emphasis drags down agencies’ CX rankings

Federal agencies are still far behind the private sector in delivering positive customer experience  because they aren’t focusing on the factors that actually improve CX, according to a new report.

Forrester’s 2016 Federal Customer Experience Index Report measured how customers feel about their interactions with 15 federal agencies. This year, satisfaction is driven more by emotion rather than by the technology.

“Our data shows that emotion is the most important component of a high-quality government customer experience,” said Rick Parrish, principal analyst and government CX expert at Forrester and author of the report.  

Forrester measured 40 drivers that affect the effectiveness of the experience delivered, the ease of interaction and how customers feel about the experience.

This year’s report found that 73 percent of agencies had poor or very poor scores on the CX index. The National Park Service and the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs topped the list for customer satisfaction, while USAJobs.Gov and Healthcare.gov remained at the bottom.

On average, agencies don’t pay enough attention to the role emotion plays in CX, the report said. By focusing on drivers such as ease of use and effectiveness, they provided fewer emotionally positive experiences than the private-sector average.

Agencies also tend to “obsess” over technologies, rather than on the drivers that emphasize how well their employees address customers’ needs.  Customer-facing technologies like websites and mobile apps are less influential drivers than empowered employees or effective interpersonal communications.  That means investments in mobile apps and website adjustments don’t necessarily improve core customer experiences.

Finally, the report found that agencies tend to focus on what customers claim to want, rather than what data shows will actually improves CX. Seven of the 10 drivers that customers said were most essential actually were not. In fact, the report says, “the driver that customers believed was most vital to federal CX -- the security of their personal information -- was actually the least important among all of the drivers that we tested.”

Forrester suggested several ways in which agencies can improve their CX:

  1. Determine which drivers to focus on first: Conduct a detailed analysis of which specific drivers most affect CX quality, then graph the importance of each driver against the agency’s performance on the driver to decide which are most urgent.

  2. Insist that every CX proposal explains how the project addresses the drivers: This will force stakeholders to base their approaches on actual data, customers’ perspectives and real customer needs, ensuring decision makers receive high-quality proposals.

  3. Fund the projects that will boost performance on the drivers: Evaluate proposals on how many of the most urgent drivers they address, how clearly they demonstrate the ability to improve performance and how much the projects will cost.

“The most important thing that agencies can do when they look at the trends in this report is to go for greater self awareness,” Parrish said. “They need to ground their CX programs in a real understanding of what actually drives customer experience, rather than just guessing.”

To do so, agencies should turn research into action, something Parrish said the private sector does better. This means using quantitative and qualitative research to understand customers and what they want from the agency.

“If you want to improve effectively, efficiently and sustainably… figure out what’s actually affecting the customer experience and focus on that,” Parrish said.  

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.


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