Earlier this week, I shared with my colleagues at EXIM the results of our 2016 export credit insurance customer survey. This is the third consecutive year that our largest customer segment has been asked to share their feedback with us. We appreciate knowing, through our customers’ eyes, how we are doing on our agency’s strategic goal to improve the ease of doing business. But what strikes me as most compelling is the story that has emerged over the past three survey years about our customers’ business outcomes and what they have achieved, in part, with EXIM’s help.
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.
Cross-agency collaboration in the federal government has become a prevalent topic, more widely spoken and written about in the recent past than ever before, thanks, in part, to a bigger-than-ever focus on customer experience as a way of thinking within government. Rising customer expectations, advances in technology, and recommendations from government oversight organizations continue to challenge agencies’ efforts to forge partnerships that benefit citizens and customers. A 2015 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that some agencies have forged collaborative relationships that work.
Doing business with any U.S. government agency can be a daunting task. For example, in the case of customers new to EXIM Bank, there are application forms to complete, rules to understand, processes to navigate and conditions that have to be met in order to work with our agency. What our staff considers an “everyday” transaction can be overwhelming for a new customer! But EXIM has a big goal, as outlined in ExIm Bank Strategic Plan 2010-2015, to improve the ease of doing business for customers.
Dennis Snow and Jeanne Bliss have always been the customer experience (CX) authorities in my mind. Dennis’s Lessons from the Mouse and Jeanne’s Chief Customer Officer were two of the first books I read that described what the practice of customer experience looked like in the halls of Fortune 500 companies like Lands End and Microsoft, as well as on Main Street at Walt Disney World. Years ago when I first flipped through the pages of those books, I realized that I was a budding CX practitioner, even though my private sector titles were more akin to business development, client relations, and service quality.
Customer experience (CX) improvement projects come in many forms, but evolving an agency’s entire mindset to be customer-focused requires far more in the way of commitment, time, staff and organizational patience. As the senior CX lead for a U.S. government agency and an advisory committee member to the President’s Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) goal on customer service, 100 percent of my focus since joining Export-Import Bank from the private sector has been on evolving the customer strategy for Ex-Im Bank, and helping other agencies do the same.
It can be easy to forget that customer experience (CX) improvement efforts within the government sphere aren’t limited to surveys, journey maps, analytics, big data, apps, and technology. Watching Export-Import Bank’s Annual Conference come together, I’m reminded of the fundamental role that interpersonal communication plays in improving customer experience, from the front line of our unique agency. The conference is happening April 23rd-24th at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.
As 2014 draws to a close, agencies across the federal government are beginning to think about what the customer experience (CX) landscape will look like in the years ahead. There is little doubt that 2014 saw the government make great strides on this front, setting in motion a number of initiatives that will help ensure that CX will soon take root as a central management discipline across the Executive Branch.
Just like the private sector, government agencies frequently encounter new rules, regulations, policies, and financial realities that impact the way we do business. Of course, change is never easy—and when customers feel the ripple effects of those changes, their satisfaction with an agency can waver. That’s why, during times of change, customer experience leaders should reach for a fundamental, yet frequently overlooked tool in their toolbox: communication. Here are three essential to-dos that should be at the center of your communication plan.
Customer service. Customer satisfaction. Improving the customer experience. These buzzwords have become well-trodden territory among government strategists as a new wave of agencies attempt to ignite—or reignite—a focus on customers. Of course, putting customers first is a worthy goal. But what, exactly, do we mean when we use words like “service” and “satisfaction”? These terms are easily understood in the abstract; however, precisely because of their broad, abstract nature, they can also become roadblocks for pinpointing the specific metrics—and sparking the right strategic conversations—that lead to true customer-oriented improvements.
Stephanie Thum from Ex-Im Bank kicks off our video blog with an introduction to customer experience. Stephanie is Vice President of Customer Experience at Ex-Im Bank, a U.S. government agency which serves as the official export credit agency of the United States. We had a chance to sit down and talk with Stephanie about customer experience and why leadership support at the highest levels is so important to successful customer experience programs.
Customer experience (CX) is an emerging area of focus within government. My role as Vice President of Customer Experience at the Export-Import Bank speaks to this reality. Our agency’s customers and partners consist of U.S. exporters, financial services institutions, insurance brokers and foreign buyers of U.S. products and services. All play a key role in facilitating U.S. exports, toward the creation of U.S. jobs, as outlined in our agency’s charter.