2015 Customer Service Trends: a Mid-Year Update

Jul 8, 2015
Three Customer Satisfaction buttons for sad, neutral, and happy.

Earlier this year, we published 15 Government Customer Service Trends for 2015. We’re halfway through the year now—how are these trends holding up?

1. Centralized Customer Offices

A few agencies have created centralized customer offices, while others question the need for a single organization that focuses on the customer. As the public’s overall satisfaction with the federal government continues to fall, a single organization can monitor customer feedback from across the enterprise to identify and address problems with the customer experience (CX). Many agencies struggle to quantify the economic impact of improving CX, and justify funding such an organization. One place where we’re seeing success is in consolidating websites and contact centers to provide a single place for the customer to visit or call. Such efforts to streamline operations typically improve the customer experience, and can potentially save millions of dollars.

2. Focus on Digital Business Strategies

With the creation of the U.S. Digital Service and digital service teams within federal agencies, agencies are beginning to use agile business processes and user centered design to change the way they deliver services and products. As they prove their value, agencies will continue to abandon slow and costly waterfall development for agile methods, saving time and money.

3. Support for Customer-Focused Initiatives

The Customer Service Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) goal facilitates the creation of platforms and tools to assist agencies in launching customer-focused initiatives. With continued access to free/low-cost analytics tools, this trend will continue. Programs such as the Digital Analytics Program (DAP), with key performance indicators and customer satisfaction data, as well as the newly piloted Federal Feedback Button, will help agencies make meaningful, data-driven decisions when launching customer-focused initiatives.

4. Acceleration of Mobile Services

Currently, the federal government has hundreds of mobile apps to help the public accomplish specific tasks with the government. You can now view Smithsonian Institution artifacts, check the status of your tax refund, order postage stamps, report your wages for social security SSI, get alerts on government office closings, check per diem rates, and search for government information. These are just a few examples of the progress the government has made to bring mobile services to the public.

5. Service via Social Media

Through the Social Media Registry, agencies can register their official social media accounts so that the public can validate their authenticity when receiving information. This is especially important during emergency situations, when the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other agencies share information to keep people safe and healthy during disasters, bad weather, or emergency response efforts.

6. Contact Centers Remain a Key Channel
Call center

Contact centers are still an important channel, and the government must “up their game” on how they deliver services through contact centers. Recently, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced a goal to create a single 1-800 number for veterans, instead of making veterans call different numbers for medical appointments, hearing aids, prosthetics, etc. This is not only more efficient for the government, it will eliminate frustration and confusion for veterans trying to find the correct number for different services. New features such as “call back” and social media marketing make contact centers one of the most important channels to improve government customer service. Contact center data can even help you identify and correct problems on your website, enabling a better customer experience for website visitors.

7. Customer Experience Culture

Agencies are paying closer attention to the Employee Viewpoint Survey (EVS) and other feedback from employees. Most agencies now require their executives to set goals to improve employee engagement. At the VA, veteran’s experience (VE) and employee engagement (EE) go hand-in-hand: you can’t have one without the other. Aside from the hiring process, employee engagement is the single biggest cultural issue impacting customer experience. Engaged employees are happier, which translates to better service for customers.

8. Federal Feedback Button Pilot

GSA has begun piloting a system to gather in-person feedback at locations across government. By giving customers a way to give the government instant feedback at airports, post offices, job centers or medical centers, agencies can determine where the best-of-the-best service is happening and can leverage lessons learned to assist other organizations in improving service delivery.

9. Data Collection and Measurement

The Digital Analytics Program (DAP) currently runs on 4,000 websites, allowing agencies to monitor website usage and other key performance indicators such as visits, bounce rate, time on site, device type, and much more. DAP will soon expand to include customer satisfaction surveys, giving agencies the ability to view integrated KPI and satisfaction data. In addition, the public can now monitor real-time traffic on government websites through analytics.usa.gov.

10. Deliver the Same Answers via All Channels

An integrated experience is an important aspect of satisfaction. As agencies publish more content in an open, shareable manner, it then becomes available for reuse by contact center agents to respond to email, phone and chat inquiries, as well as for customer self-service on the Web. This “create once, publish everywhere” model means that there is one authoritative source for information, so people get the same answer, no matter which channel they choose. For example, USA.gov just launched an adaptive content platform which will consume content from other agencies, as well as syndicate USA.gov content out to other government and third party sites. This will create a more robust and content-rich site, delivering information and services directly to customers where they are.

11. High-Impact, High-Profile CX Initiatives

Agencies are starting to use more customer and program data to identify issues and opportunities for service improvement. For example, the VA recently stood up a new Veterans Experience Office, and as previously mentioned, is working to consolidate their various support lines into a single 1-800 number.

12. Personas and Journey Mapping

Personas are behavior-based descriptions of the primary customers that use a site or service. Several agencies have created personas and customer journey maps to better understand the customer’s actual experience as they navigate government information and services. The VA, for example, interviewed veterans throughout the country and identified the following personas:

  • Still Serving
  • Day-by-Day
  • Proud Patriot
  • Fast Tracker
  • Veteran Support
  • Forging Ahead
  • In Transition

Sarah Brooks recently discussed the VA’s efforts around customer research. The personas they developed will drive efforts to improve the experience veterans have when they need benefits or medical attention. The USA.gov team is also using personas to inform their site redesign.

13. Enterprise CRM

Agencies are adopting customer relationship management (CRM) tools to share customer information across agency silos and help agencies “speak with one voice” when talking to customers. Employees can document customer interactions in the agency CRM, saving that historical data so it can be referenced in future conversations, even when the customer speaks with different people across the organization. CRM tools facilitate a seamless transition as customers move from one part of the agency to another.

14. Recognition for Federal Employees

The Federal Customer Service Awards Program has been announced (read the implementation guidance from OMB). Nominations are due in July 2015, and winners will be announced in September 2015. This award will recognize professionalism and service excellence and will highlight initiatives that improve service so they can be replicated across government. Initiatives like this show the value of good service and could go a long way toward changing the culture across government.

15. Employee-Driven Improvements

This spring, GSA stood up a new Customer Experience Community of Practice (CX-COP) as a platform for government employees to collaborate on improving the experience we provide to our customers and partners. The group has started work on a CX Toolkit and is collecting best practices from agencies in areas such as performance management, governance and employee engagement. Email us if you have a best practice to share.

If you’re interested in improving government customer service, and you have a government email address, join the CX-COP. Register here (or email us).