National Customer Service Week Is Over, but Our Work Is Not!

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Get your customer personas right, and you will improve the customer experience (CX) for the rest of your audience.

That’s advice Rick Parrish from Forrester Research gave in response to an audience question during the September 29 DigitalGov University webinar on the state of CX in the federal government. Your key customers are those that are most important to the organization, and often most difficult to serve, he explained.

When you get into personas, user stories, customer journey maps and the like, it’s easy to go down the rabbit hole, Parrish said. Most organizations—even big companies—maintain 3-5 personas for their key customers.

When the United Services Automobile Association (USAA) developed the first mobile check deposit app, they were designing for a particular persona—a recently-commissioned officer going on a foreign deployment—and built the app to serve that persona’s needs. And it ended up working well for the rest of their customers, too.

How detailed should personas be? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer because there’s no one-size-fits-all persona, Parrish said. He shared additional advice on persona development:

  • Think about what kinds of projects you want to use them for, then make them detailed enough to be actionable for that purpose.
  • If you are using agile design methods to build a mobile app, you can get away with relatively lightweight personas and user stories. But if you are re-engineering an entire customer journey, then you’ll need greater scope and detail.
  • Revisit your personas from time to time to make sure they are updated and focused the way you need them to be for whatever you’re working on at the moment. Personas must be living documents, he concluded.

Parrish Answers Additional Questions

Given the recent National Customer Service Week, we wanted to model good CX by providing answers to the questions we ran out of time to answer during the webinar.

Question: Is this (CX) very similar to design thinking process for generating customer-focused, innovative solutions, learning to see from the customer perspective, etc?

Answer: Design thinking is one of the six key disciplines of CX. The disciplines of Strategy, Customer Understanding, and Design are essential for creating great customer experiences. As you know, design thinking isn’t just about designing the specific workflow or look and feel of individual touchpoints. It is also about building procedures that take into account the needs of all the stakeholders in the CX ecosystem so that your organization can create and sustain great experiences. One of the best ways to do that is to co-create every experience with customers and other key stakeholders. To do that, you need an actionable CX strategy built from a real understanding of your customers. Then you can design the policies, processes, and UX design methods you need to fulfill that strategy.

Question: You mentioned that you have data that shows the importance of the emotional experience. Is that data available for us to share with our stakeholders?

Answer: The data I referred to comes from Forrester’s CX Index™. You may have access to it if your agency is a Forrester client. I also blogged on the topic a few months ago right here where anyone can read it. One of the key points I made in the blog post was that organizations at the top of the CX Index elicit positive emotions about 20 times as often as orgs. at the bottom of the Index. The trend is similar for federal agencies—those that rank higher on the Index elicit positive emotions many times more often than agencies at the bottom.

Question: How about Section 508 Coordinators? Is the CIO taking the lead as far as accessibility? Does the person who does 508 work with CX?

Answer: At agencies that have a high level of CX maturity, 508 Coordinators play a key CX role. They are major CX stakeholders and should definitely be brought into the decisionmaking process. If you work on 508 issues and you find that your agency is making CX decisions without you, I encourage you to be assertive and find ways to make your voice heard.

In fact, you may have some excellent ideas on how to improve the experience for all of your agency’s customers. After all, getting CX right for customers with bigger challenges often means better CX for everyone as a result. (That’s why you often design for the most challenging of your key personas. When you nail CX for them, you tend to make it better for everyone else, too.)

As for CIOs, they often take the de facto lead on CX in agencies without official CX governance because they are so integral to much of the customer experience. That isn’t ideal, however; CIOs have too much else on their plate. Digital is only part of the federal customer experience, and of course many CIOs just aren’t ready to start thinking and acting customer-centrically.

Question: What are some good metrics for baseline measures and to gauge improvements?

Answer: There is so much to say on this topic! But for starters, make sure you measure:

  • All 3 Es (Effectiveness, Ease, and Emotion). This doesn’t need to be complicated when you are just starting out. Simply make sure customers can accomplish what they are trying to do, easily, and that they feel good about it.
  • The customer’s perspective. It’s so easy to accidentally measure your own internal perspective rather than the customers’. For instance, if your internal IT help desks have very fast trouble ticket closure rates, it’s easy to think that they are solving solving customers’ problems easily. And they may be—but that’s not what you’re measuring. You’re simply measuring how fast help desk employees can close tickets, not whether the customers’ problems were actually solved.
  • How your CX performance affects your mission success. CX isn’t an end in itself—it has to help you accomplish your agency’s goals. So identify mission performance metrics that you can match up with CX performance measures. Then see how well units that score well on CX perform on mission metrics as compared to units that do not score well on CX. That way you’ll quickly identify which CX changes drive the biggest wins on your mission performance goals, and you’ll build hard data on the ROI of CX investments.

So, based on what you learned here and on the webinar, what does your agency plan to do to improve CX in the coming year? Get started now, so you have good stories to tell during the next Customer Service Week in October 2016.

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