Creating government experiences that put people first
White House Executive Order focuses on customer experience
Americans interact with the federal government every day. From accessing retirement benefits to applying for health care to checking on business loan applications, we rely on the federal government for various critical services. And because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re doing so increasingly online.
Many of us have faced challenges and a disjointed experience when accessing these services, including confusing websites, inconsistent information, dated and manual processes, and other roadblocks. But this week, the White House took an important step to enhance how the American people interact with the federal government. President Joe Biden signed an executive order (EO) to improve the way the government delivers services to the public by putting people and their customer life experiences at the center.
While technology is not the panacea for improving customer experience (CX) across government, we applaud this EO’s focus on leveraging technology to “modernize Government and implement services that are simple to use, accessible, equitable, protective, transparent, and responsive.”
This EO builds on years of advocacy and work to make government more seamless and efficient, including the bipartisan 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (21st Century IDEA) that passed three years ago and the recent President’s Management Agenda (PMA) priority centered around designing and delivering excellent, equitable, and secure federal services and customer experience.
Imagining a seamless way to interact with government
We live in a digitally connected world in which our opinions are shaped by our experiences and interactions — whether it’s booking a flight or paying our taxes. As users, we look to organizations and brands to deliver seamless and personal experiences.
While positive experiences engender loyalty and repeat engagement, one negative experience can have a detrimental impact on trust. It’s so important for organizations, both public and private, to understand what their customers want and create experiences that meet their unique needs and build trust. This is equally true for citizens accessing government services, which can be some of the most critical services that people need.
The Executive Order (EO) specifies several changes for agencies to undertake to improve CX, and we commend the White House for focusing on such measurable outcomes. Some examples of the changes that government agencies will undertake include:
The Department of Homeland Security will design and deliver a streamlined, online disaster assistance application, as well as test innovative technologies at airport security checkpoints to reduce passenger wait times.
The Department of Education will design and deliver a repayment portal capability on StudentAid.gov for Direct Loan borrowers.
The Department of Veterans Affairs will provide digital services through a single, integrated, and equitable digital platform on VA.gov and the VA mobile app.
The Department of Agriculture will design and implement a simplified direct farm loan application process.
The Secretary of State will design and deliver a new online passport renewal experience that does not require any physical documents to be mailed.
By making the enhancements specified in this EO, the American people will be offered an experience to engage in government services that more closely resemble their interactions with commercial brands and organizations.
Adobe partners with governments on digital service delivery
We’re proud to have partnered with government at the state and local levels to modernize and streamline digital services. At Adobe, we know how transformative modern technology can be in improving customer experience, digital equity, and access. From seamless and equal opportunities in education to workforce development, we work every day to increase access to technology that unlocks opportunities and improves equity.
For example, the State of Oklahoma launched an Oklahoma.gov site powered by Adobe Experience Cloud. The site became a one-stop shop for several government services — everything from requesting financial assistance to getting a fishing permit — and created a streamlined experience for government customers looking for a variety of services. To enable employees to safely work at home, the state also used Adobe Sign for e-signatures and digital document processing, creating a seamless process for users to review documents and provide a virtual signature securely.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services also used Experience Cloud to revamp its website (its “digital front door”) that provides critical access to social services during the pandemic. Customers can now apply for and view their benefits, learn about services, and explore various resources available through a portal that is straightforward, easier to navigate in multiple languages, and mobile-friendly — which also enabled the agency to provide better service and avoid disruptions.
And we’ve already seen the potential for technology to help the federal government streamline its customer experience and make engagement more accessible: The United States Census Bureau partnered with Adobe to launch the first nationwide online census in 2020. Adobe provided a robust, scalable, and secure website experience to handle the large increase in web traffic to the 2020 Census website. The website also increased access for people across a variety of backgrounds by offering personalized content and landing pages in 59 languages. The result? 99.98 percent of all housing units and addresses nationwide were accounted for in the survey and an estimated savings of $1.4B, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
Everyone deserves equitable access to government services
It’s important to note that access to technology is disparate across communities in the United States. We’re grateful to see the White House taking steps to address these inequities and focusing on how customers navigate government services across channels.
For example, as part of the EO, government agencies are being directed to ensure that their websites render effectively on mobile devices and that they are compliant with mandated accessibility standards for people with disabilities. Agencies can also address inequity by adding state-of-the-art approaches to existing paper-based processes as part of the EO. By using mobile-friendly digital forms and applications, e-signature technologies, and automated self-service processes, agencies can help streamline access services that are essential to supporting underrepresented communities.
The future is digital
Adobe and the entire technology industry are constantly innovating to respond to a world in which people are increasingly online. The public deserves a convenient, equitable, secure, and seamless experience when accessing any service online — particularly vital government services — and we are committed to helping government agencies achieve this.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the government’s need to increase accessibility, usability, and responsiveness while also spotlighting the critical role that technology can play in helping government deliver on its critical mission.
It will be important for federal agencies moving forward to prioritize investments in CX that will ensure people have equal and equitable access to government services, regardless of where they reside, abilities they may have, or what resources are at their disposal.