As kids head back to school this fall, many will hear a familiar lecture reminding them of that last report card before summer and encouraging them to start off this school year on the right foot, creating good habits from Day 1. Nextgov’s Frank Konkel had a similar message for government in his recent interview with Forrester’s Rick Parrish. Forrester Research’s 2016 Customer Experience (CX) Index indicates that federal government agencies were collectively rated has having the worst customer experiences compared with 300+ consumer brands that included underperforming cable TV providers, internet service providers, and airlines. Furthermore, these poor ratings occurred despite the White House’s emphasis on improving customer experience over the past five years.
But the message is not all bleak – Konkel also noted a few bright spots, notably where agencies have demonstrated marked improvements in their CX Index demonstrating “money and resources currently being spent at those organizations is shifting customer perceptions.”
So, as we head back to school, we offer three habits that to focus on to improve customer experience grades in government throughout the year ahead.
Building Good CX Habits
Follow the Outcomes. The business case for customer experience is about improving the performance of government services. High performing services — whether provided by government or commercially — are measured on how well they help their customers achieve a desired outcome. Just like we scoff at automating bad processes that deliver the wrong output faster, customer experience is another means towards the end of delivering a better customer outcome. Agencies need first be aware of what outcomes their customers are trying to achieve before they build the service to assist them.
Customer Satisfaction ≠ Customer Experience. As Parrish notes, that while many agencies conduct traditional customer satisfaction surveys, they need to better track their customer behavior. Measuring only satisfaction at certain touch points (e.g., directing them to the correct phone number, correcting a problem in an online form, or responding to a phone call within the estimated response window) is insufficient because it does not inform the service provider whether their action contributed to the outcome. Understanding the decisions that customers make throughout their journey, whether to continue or abandon the service, is the key to better performance. We need to create services where customers continually opt-in to the next step of the journey. This happens when services solve real problems, provide a customer experience that is consistent with American values, and meet customers’ expectations for aspects such as ease of use, availability, reliability, and security.
The Incentives for Better Government Just Aren’t There. One commenter to Konkel’s article noted that government is not incentivized to change because it lacks competition for its services; Government has a monopoly. Essentially this implies that customers have little choice of whether or not to do business with the government. After all, where else can you go for services like food stamps, airport security, or a subsidized home loan? Though this may be a dominant perception within and about government, it is also the most ripe for disruption. Just as with commercial services, customers perceive a cost of using government services, even when they are being offered for “free”.
Am I sacrificing my privacy by giving up this information?
Who is really going to notice if I don’t pay my taxes?
This isn’t worth it, we will just get by without
It won’t harm anyone if I bypass this security measure
I had to take time off work to stand in this line to vote
These are all examples of customer sentiments measuring the opportunity cost of their alternatives and trying to figure out if its worth it. When government understands its customers and the value of those other opportunities, it will clearly see the need to deliver a competitive customer experience.
Our team at Technical Assent works with government Program Managers to develop these habits from the start – building services that drive customer outcomes and position government services as the preferred alternative. We have found over and over again that government agencies who focus on their customers first, deliver higher performing services at better value for the taxpayer.