Understanding Your Customer

Who is our customer? spelled out on old-fashioned, wooden typography blocks

Do you know who your customers are? And what they expect from your organization?

One of the most critical components of a successful customer experience program is to understand your customer. The first step is knowing who your customers are. Are they veterans, students, senior citizens or other federal workers? In some cases your customers could wear many different hats when interacting with your agency. They could be a veteran, a caregiver, a parent, and a federal worker, all rolled into one.

There are numerous ways to determine what your customers expect when interacting with your organization online. You can conduct customer satisfaction surveys, hold focus groups, and assess the analytics of your program or website.

As I wrote in my previous post, my office within GSA is creating a Customer Experience index for our agency-facing programs and for our public-facing programs. The index will give us a baseline to determine whether the overall experience is improving or not. However, to diagnose the issues or the improvements, you will need feedback from other tools such as the surveys or focus groups mentioned above.

Here’s what’s critical: The results need to be from the customer’s perspective, not from the agency’s perspective.

When measuring customer service you want to collect metrics that tell the story of what you want to know.

  • Do your customers view your products as services as high quality?
  • Are your products and services efficient – how much are you spending for the results you are achieving?
  • Are your products effective – did your customers complete the task they came to you for?
  • Are you getting the take-up or adoption of the products and services you are delivering? If your adoption is low, why is that?

How we measure our government programs may evolve over time, depending on the stage of the program. For example, when a new program is launched, it may be more important that people are aware of the program and are using it, than how efficient it is. As your adoption grows, you may focus more on the impact the service has through quality measures and whether someone could successfully complete the transaction or task.

Measuring adoption also varies based on the type of program. For websites, it could be the number of visits to your website; for a contact center, it might be the number of calls. Or, it could mean the number of people who have applied for your program.

Another key consideration is: how can you diagnose problems? A simple but effective way to diagnose problems with service levels is to pretend you are the customer and walk through the various steps you would have to take to achieve the task you came there for. This is also known in the customer experience field as Journey Mapping. By defining the various scenarios or tasks your customers would come to your office to complete, you can walk through the steps in the journey. Then you document the questions you need to answer, the information you may need, and how long it takes to complete each step of the transaction. This will enable you to identify the pain points or delays in completing the transaction – that’s where you prioritize your efforts.

Now that I’ve shared the customer experience processes we’re trying to implement in my office at GSA, I’d love to hear the methods you use to understand your customers. What’s worked the best? What are your biggest challenges?