customer services (cifotart/

CX starts with culture, not technology

Customer experience, at the heart of many government IT modernization projects today, focuses on improving interactions between citizens and public-sector agencies. But a welcome side effect is improved processes for government workers.

During a recent webinar titled “Building Next-Generation Government: Customer Experience,” two government workers explained how employees and citizens have both benefitted from digitization.

Michael Parker, CIO for personnel at the Air Force, wanted to replace or update the manual human resources processes involved in supporting 700,000 airmen.

As he and his team researched how the Defense Department, other government entities and the private sector handle HR, they kept airmen’s unique needs in mind. 

“It’s an analog experience today, so if you think in terms of digitization of the current state, that required closing the gap between what airmen deserve and what airmen experience in their personal lives,” Parker said in the webinar, which was sponsored by Salesforce. “Trying to close that gap was our strategy for digitization.”

“We … focused on what that technology should look like, how it should operate, and in doing so, we created a viewpoint of the future, this digital transformation, in identifying what tools and technology and software we needed, but also what experience,” Parker said.

The result is a cloud-based mobile-first plan. “What will exist in the future, in this digitization, is a mobile-enabled opportunity for airmen,” he said. “You should have the ability to use your mobile device at a moment of convenience and opportunities when airmen have time. We want airmen out of the waiting room and back into the mission, back with their families.”

What’s more, the new system will be intuitive and offer self-service. It will also provide airmen with analytics on themselves so they can see how they are performing, if they want to sign up for training or if they want to apply for a new job or assignment, Parker added. It’s “a really unique opportunity for airmen to take care of themselves,” he said.

Thinking of employees as customers is crucial to shifting the definition of customer experience, said Paul Tatum, senior vice president for solution engineering at Salesforce’s Global Public Sector. He said that where government agencies usually get stuck is by starting with the technology, not the culture.

“If the leadership is not instilling a perspective of customer first, a prioritization around that customer, nothing else will work long-term, because employees have to see that leadership, that cultural change, and then the customers will feel it and everything follows,” Tatum said.

Mia Jordan, assistant CIO at the Agriculture Department’s Rural Development Business Center, said she came to that realization when her agency set out to better serve loan recipients through cloud-based technology that lets the center work with lenders directly from their loan origination systems.

To do that, she worked with customers and employees to get feedback on how they would use such tools, rather than take something off the shelf and implement it.

“I had technology at my fingertips that I knew that I could [use to] meet that challenge rather quickly, but I’ll say, once that was decided, we still quickly came around to understanding there’s no way you can roll out a program of this magnitude with the different business entities … without that customer-focused engagement,” Jordan said. “A lot of that comes down to really using technology where you have your customer and your internal staff working in the same solution.”

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.

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