The surface-level sentiments found in generic private sector surveys provide the government few helpful insights in assessing how well a service performs.
As government agencies continue examining their services in response to President Biden's executive order to improve customer experience (CX), a crucial part of the process must be defining specific metrics that bring about positive change and help agencies prioritize improvements to their services.
It's not enough to use CX strategies designed for businesses in the private sector. The government must identify ways that measure the actual efficiency of an agency's services and success rates for those using them. If not, they won't have a clear picture of where pain points exist and how to correct them.
We believe several key strategies—studying funnel tracking, investing in user research, and focusing on product outcomes—can help define these metrics and ultimately improve government CX and strengthen the public's trust.
Commercial businesses often rely on customer surveys to measure their brand's overall perception. They use these metrics to measure how well they gain customers' attention and then use that data to strategize how to increase customer engagement and ultimately boost revenue. While these are useful in commercial businesses, they don't provide much benefit in a government setting where people don't have a choice in who they rely on for services.
The government can't simply receive feedback like "I would not recommend this service to others" and understand if their services are truly helping people. The surface-level sentiments found in generic surveys provide the government few helpful insights in assessing how well a service performs, whether or not people are able to complete a transaction, or what an agency needs to change to improve the customer's experience and inform future strategies.
Also part of their CX approach, businesses strive to create stickiness with their users, keeping them engaged as long and as often as possible. Conversely, the time people spend with a government agency should be minimal. They should be able to access the resource (a website, a customer service phone line, or an in-person office visit), perform the transaction or find the information they need, then move on with their lives.
It's also important to remember that people can't select from competing vendors when using government services. They must interact with the IRS to file taxes or use the Social Security Administration to apply for retirement benefit. This fact makes it all the more critical that government agencies identify and reduce any administrative burdens on the public, as required by an April 2022 memo from the Office of Management and Budget.
To achieve this, the government must set detailed expectations of what CX should and could be – ones that address the realities of government and aren't simply replications of CX models built for commercial markets. And keep in mind: CX encompasses all the interactions a person has with an agency, not just the digital one. So the government must consider all avenues the public might use to access their services, not just their websites.
Incorporating the following strategies can help ensure agencies improve their service delivery and CX and increase the public's trust:
- Funnel tracking: This analysis follows users' actions and shows how many complete each step in the customer journey. As opposed to a generic survey, funnel tracking identifies specific struggles users encounter as they move through a process. It highlights problems along the way that an agency needs to resolve or areas to improve for greater efficiency.
- User research: User research is key to understanding how people interact with services and helps an agency determine if it's actually meeting people's needs. This includes understanding how people with different needs or abilities might use their services and potential barriers they may face in trying to accomplish a task. By incorporating a user-centric approach, agencies can proactively design and build for everyone, which creates better CX and earns the public's confidence.
- Product outcomes: Thinking in terms of outcomes for the people who use government services can transform how an agency measures its success. Even if a website is launched by the contractual deadline, it doesn't mean it's helping people achieve their goals. Agencies need to look at the outcomes they want to achieve and work to understand what fixes or improvements can help them reach those outcomes.
Government agencies' goals should be centered around creating services that help people spend less time on websites, make fewer calls to support centers, and complete a process feeling delighted at the ease of doing so. Increasing efficiency and providing an excellent customer experience are key to helping build people's trust in the government—targets that are front and center in Biden's executive order. Incorporating these three strategies is one critical step to achieving this success.
Greg Gershman is CEO and co-founder of Ad Hoc, a digital services company that focuses on the federal government.
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