Great Customer Experience through Open Dialogue

While we think about the audience, we don’t often map out the experience we want them to have when using our services. This is critical information for the design. In other cases, we may not have the data to analyze existing customers’ needs–or worse–may not consider who the potential customers are.

Making decisions on a limited customer base can lead to services p/s that don’t meet the overall needs.

Many argue that because no one wanted the automatic teller machines (ATMs) and they were such a success and an integral part of our banking experience, that customers don’t know what they want. Steve Jobs also didn’t ask customers what they wanted because he had a vision for transforming the way we interact with or consume music and technology. That said, investing in p/s that have no customer need or buy-in has proven to be the cause of numerous failed initiatives. In some cases, basic user centered design and testing can give you 90% of your answers.

In the government, the value of communication is commonly overlooked as well. Communication can include engaging with customers to better understand their needs and expectations or to gauge your success at meeting those expectations. Honest communication can turn a bad incident into a good experience. Customers are more understanding when problems arise if you are transparent, honest and accept the responsibility for the issue. Some easy ways to collect feedback are:

  • Surveys,
  • Focus groups, or
  • Use traditional feedback mechanisms like emails, etc.

Communication can lead to significant improvements and increased adoption.

Lastly, marketing and outreach can be put on the back burner as unnecessary and overly expensive. The type of marketing and outreach obviously is driven by your customer. If your customer is the general public, your marketing can range from mainstream consumer media to social media. This is another instance where segmenting your audience is important. If your audience is college students, your strategy will be considerably different than if your audience is seniors. I realize that’s obvious. The point is that the government spends millions and millions of dollars on programs and services and doesn’t always consider the value of ensuring that the public is aware of the service. On the other hand, if your audience is other Federal agencies, it seems that it should be easier to make them aware of these programs. But that’s not how it happens. For example, GSA manages USA Search which is a world class search service available to government websites for no charge. Currently it powers over 1,500 government websites including the White House, most cabinet agencies, state and local governments. It’s amazing how many agencies are not aware of this service.

As you create programs and services, remember that the quality is important, including its ease of use, ability to understand how to use it, the timeliness of getting the information you need and its accessibility. But don’t forget about communication with customers and reaching out to make them aware that the services exist.