Performance metrics, targets and public reporting are not new in government; however, customer-oriented metrics have been underutilized and under-reported publicly for a long time. Today, as the principles of customer experience as a management discipline gain momentum across the federal government, there is an opportunity to use data to tell more of the story where customers’ experiences are concerned.
Balancing Internal and External Customer Experience Metrics
Internal and external metrics are needed to tell a more holistic story, versus internal data alone or external data alone. Internal data originates within an agency through operational channels. External data comes straight from customers.
Internal measures shed light on how an agency performs, operationally, to its targets and goals. For example, if an agency’s strategic plan calls for the agency to provide faster, more reliable, or easier service to customers, then quantifiable, measurable standards, goals and targets pertaining to time, reliability and ease should be set and measured internally, and then reported publicly.
However, internal, operational data tells only part of the story. The other part is external and comes from customers themselves. Using the example of timeliness, reliability and ease in the paragraph above, customers’ perceptions of timeliness, reliability and ease should be reported in tandem with the operational data to get a full reflection of performance. Customer perceptions can be gathered through surveys, round tables or other listening posts.
Where Metrics Are Important
Agency strategic plans, annual performance plans and annual performance reports (APP/APRs) appear to make sense as the “home” for setting the stage for and then publicly telling a more complete story of customers’ experiences through performance data. By integrating even the most basic internal and external customer-oriented metrics, agencies have a solid platform for becoming more accountable to the public and jump-starting organizational discussions that benefit customers. To be fair, some agencies already publish customer-oriented operational metrics. But not many report customer ratings in comparison to targets and goals. This could change as strategic-level customer advocacy roles grow throughout government.
But wait! There’s more!
Setting customer experience-oriented targets and reporting performance shouldn’t be the beginning and end of an agency’s attention to customer data. There’s an entire conversation to be had, internally, over the data points. Much in the same way new hires, changes in policies or major employee events are broadly announced within an organization, customer data should be shared at a regular rhythm and cadence as well. Senior team meetings, employee departmental meetings, agency intranet sites and town hall meetings, for example, are outlets for keeping customers at the forefront for management and staff.
Including internal and external customer metrics in strategic plans and reports, and then weaving that data into the fabric of an agency’s culture may appear to be a daunting task; however, with the right approach, agencies can set a framework that provides a more complete answer to the question: In what way does our work matter to customers?
In government, we are only as successful as our customers. What we do operationally is important, but a more holistic story of performance emerges when customers’ perceptions are presented, as well.
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