StudentAid.gov’s 1st Year: What We’ve Learned and Where We’re Going
Guest post by Brenda Wensil, Chief Customer Experience Officer for Federal Student Aid. Established in late 2010, FSA’s Customer Experience Office is responsible for identifying, measuring and reporting customer expectations and satisfaction with the financial aid services and products offered at Federal Student Aid.
In my last post, I shared about last year’s launch of StudentAid.gov by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA). The new site consolidates and combines content and interactive tools from multiple web sites and features instructional videos and infographics to help answer frequent questions about federal financial aid.
Fast forward a year, and while we still have lots of enhancements to make, we are seeing some great results and have a few friends in the industry telling us we are on the right track.
StudentAid.gov was featured in Computerworld’s June 3rd issue for using information technology to promote and advance the public welfare, benefit society and business, and change the world for the better.
What We’ve Learned
We’ve learned a lot during the past year, but here are three things that really stood out:
- You don’t need multi-million dollar contracts to make huge improvements to the customer experience. Sweat equity, creativity, team work and a little encouragement along the way can sometimes make up for what is lacking in the budget.
- Use the resources you have wisely. If you take the time, you can find some really innovative and passionate people internally who are willing to help you make the experience better for citizens. Most of the team that worked on Integrated Student Experience had full-time jobs on top of their work on this project, but they were passionate about it, so they made it work.
- Make sure what you build is what they want and need. While your internal team may think a certain feature is really cool or not necessary at all, your users may think differently. That’s why customer feedback throughout the process is crucial. Constantly go back to the customer and test before spending time and resources.
What’s New for 2014
We’re currently working on the second phase of this project, which will allow students to log in and gain fast, easy access to their student loan data from within StudentAid.gov. Also, we will continue to make enhancements and improvements to the current site based on user feedback through surveys, usability testing and focus groups. In future phases, StudentAid.gov will offer a single view of transactional tools, such as loan status, entrance and exit counseling and other processes needed throughout the financial aid life cycle.
We encourage you to check out the site and let us know what you think and how we can improve. We’re looking forward to what we can accomplish on behalf of the customer in the future and can’t wait to give you updates along the way in this forum.