Delivering Greater Citizen Experiences in 3 Easy Steps

Image source: Adobe Stock.

We live in a digitally connected world where our opinions are shaped by our experiences, whether it’s booking a train or applying for a passport.

As digital transformation takes shape, digital experiences drive brand loyalty, enhance engagement and improve the quality of service. As users, we expect organizations and brands to deliver seamless and personal experiences. One positive experience engenders loyalty and repeat engagement. One negative experience can mean the end of a relationship.

That’s why it’s so important for organizations—both public and private—to understand what their customers want and create experiences that not only meet their unique needs, but also deliver experiences at scale. This is equally true for citizens as their taxpayer dollars are spent to create government experiences.

Understanding the need for enhanced digital experiences, the White House Office of American Innovation recently convened public and private sector leaders to discuss ways agencies can improve customer experience “CX” and digital service delivery.

I had a chance to participate in the discussion and three things stood out as keys to improved digital government experiences.

Taking a private sector approach to CX

Digital experiences are part of our everyday life—ordering a rideshare, getting real-time directions or getting that last-minute gift for a friend. Yet the public sector has historically trailed behind the private sector when it comes to delivering quality experiences. However, a Forrester and Adobe study shows that when federal agencies make investments in experience-driven technology, they quickly see higher returns through greater employee satisfaction, faster development cycles and stronger advocacy.

With taxpayer dollars on the line, federal agencies must accelerate the steps they’re taking to improve citizen services. This can understandably be a daunting step for federal agencies, especially those with staffing and budget limitations, so it’s important to begin this process by looking at examples of organizations delivering quality experiences for their customers.

One example is Home Depot, which was an early adopter of omnichannel offerings such as “buy online, pickup in store” and mobile-friendly digital services for its customers. Home Depot understood something fundamental about their customers—that they increasingly wanted the option to buy standard products, like a box of nails or a bag of mulch, online and get it quickly at a store. Recognizing this trend, Home Depot aimed to highlight the blend of physical and digital retail sales. As a result, the company adopted the Adobe Experience Platform to capture insights from both its online and offline channels and used this data to improve the shopper experience for all customers.

And it’s not just the private sector that’s achieving greater outcomes – states are also making great strides to strengthen the experiences they deliver to citizens. In fact, the State of Hawaii strengthened the experiences it provided for citizens by digitizing its government forms. This not only moved more than 400,000 electronic documents online, it also reduced paper usage by roughly 25,000 pages per day, helping the state save more than $5 million in two and a half years and more efficiently deliver services to citizens.

By opening its aperture of private sector and state government organizations that are doing CX right, federal agencies can further shape their strategy to deliver greater experiences for citizens through best-in-class digital services.

Standardizing the federal CXO role across government

The key to successfully running a digital government experience starts by knowing the customer and putting them at the center.​ This begins with the federal C-suite. Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are often responsible for leading the charge when it comes to digital services transformation. However, as the citizen’s experience becomes a key reason to modernize these services, federal agencies must also establish a senior role that acts as a champion for the customer. This leader is the Chief Customer Experience Officer (CXO).

Thankfully, some federal agencies already have CXOs. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid established the federal government’s first-ever CXO nearly a decade ago, while the U.S. Air Force appointed its first CXO in July 2019. This gradual shift signals that the onus for molding an agency’s IT and digital government strategy no longer falls solely on the shoulders of the CIO – instead, the CIO and CXO must work together to shape strategy and adopt tools that truly meet the needs of the citizens in which they serve.

Digital transformation in the federal government is inevitable, but for agencies to achieve a high ROI and meet citizens digital service delivery needs, the CXO role needs to be standardized across the federal government, especially for agencies that citizens interface with the most.

Enacting policies that strengthen CX

Throughout the discussion, it became clear that we also need policies in place to encourage federal agencies to adopt modern technology that improve digital services provided to citizens.

Most recently, the Senate passed the Federal Agency Customer Experience Act of 2019, which, if signed into law, will require federal agencies to collect customer feedback about their service offerings and publicize this information. In addition, the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA) accelerates the modernization of federal agency websites and forms by making them intuitive and mobile friendly, as well as ensures customer experience is top of mind for agency heads. The President’s Management Agency Cross Agency Priority (CAP) goal around Improving Customer Experience with Federal Services is raising the standard of service offered by federal agencies by focusing on applying proven CX practices to High Impact Service Providers (HISPs). These 25 services across the Federal Government have been identified due to the scale and impact of their public-facing services.

The White House Office of American Innovation, Office of Management & Budget (OMB) and the U.S. Congress have made significant progress toward improving the services and experiences that government agencies deliver. As lawmakers continue to develop budgets and legislation to support the bipartisan goal of improved CX, they must craft policies and approve budgets that empower federal agencies to seamlessly move from one stage in their journey to the next while personalizing experiences for millions of citizens.