This past year, I led an effort to redesign the staff Intranet site for the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). After months of surveying, planning, and testing (see the part 1 blog post, How Do You Redesign a ‘Dinosaur’? Redesigning an Intranet Site: the Beginning Stages), the site was launched in Fall 2017. I learned several helpful lessons along the way that I wanted to share:
This post was originally published on the USA.gov blog. An agency information sharing exercise to improve the customer experience, as related to the Office of Products and Programs’ Information Exchange Project Some people experience challenges navigating government services – especially if they need to work with more than one agency. Based on this premise, we set out to find out how agencies could share information with one another to improve the customer experience.
For the past couple of years, the Peace Corps has used online-based intercept surveys on peacecorps.gov to measure user satisfaction. The data captured over time has been interesting, but has not varied much month-to-month, which has made it difficult to translate insight into actionable enhancements on the website. In order to get more out of the user satisfaction data, we developed a framework that applies statistical models to the data collected that identify key performance indicators (KPIs) that have the greatest likelihood to increase overall user satisfaction.
Joel Minton, a member of the U.S. Digital Service, is working with GSA’s Technology Transformation Service as the director of login.gov. Tom Mills is the Chief Technology Architect at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In early April, the U.S. Digital Service and 18F launched login.gov, a single sign-on solution for government websites that will enable citizens to access public services across agencies with the same username and password. Login.gov is currently in action at the U.
Since 2007, a major consulting firm has conducted an annual survey on organizations’ “Digital IQ.” In the ten years of organizations grappling with digital transformation, what has been learned? From the report: Focus on the human experience [emphasis in the original]: Rethink how you define and deliver digital initiatives, consider employee and customer interactions at every step of the way, invest in creating a culture of tech innovation and adoption, and much more.
Keeping the customer’s needs front and center is important when developing new digital tools. We recently developed a set of user personas as part of our work to establish a more robust—and data informed—understanding of the individuals that engage digitally with the National Archives (NARA). User personas are fictional, but realistic representations of key audience segments that are grounded in research and data. We recently applied customer data from a variety of sources including website analytics and online surveys to inform the creation of eight personas that represent our digital customers: Researchers, Veterans, Genealogists, Educators, History Enthusiasts, Curious Nerds, Museum Visitors, and Government Stakeholders.
We at DigitalGov want to hear more about you – your job, your role, the challenges you face — all of it — as you work to deliver more secure, effective, and reliable digital services for the public. We are going to start holding user-research sessions with our readers who work in the federal government. This will be a big part of how we listen to and learn about those who are providing the public with better services and what their core needs are.
DigitalGov University (DGU), the events platform for DigitalGov, provides programming to build and accelerate digital capacity by providing webinars and in-person events highlighting innovations, case studies, tools, and resources. Thanks to your participation, DGU hosted over 90 events with 6,648 attendees from over 100 agencies across federal, tribal, state, and local governments. DGU strives to provide training throughout the year that is useful and relevant to you. One of the most resounding comments from digital managers last year was people wanted to be able to attend all of our classes virtually.
Lately, I’ve looked at how a government agency measures a customer’s experience. It’s such a complex topic that I would need more than one blog to discuss the nuances behind it. In my last blog, I examined and brokedown three types of customer service metrics: customer satisfaction (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS), and Customer Effort Score (CES). This one is about identifying how easy it is to work with your organization and discover ways to improve service delivery.
In December, I plan to write two postings detailing a scenario analysis for the next ten years of the Federal government’s data technologies. Governments are on the cusp of amazing technological advances propelled by artificial intelligence, blockchain technologies, and the Internet of Things. Also, governments will face new challenges such as the recent global cyber attack that took down Twitter and Netflix. I want to invite you, the reader, to also send in your predictions for the future of Federal government data.
As you know, over the last few years DigitalGov has surfaced the innovative advancements many are making across the government space while providing a platform for learning best practices and coming together as a community. Over the course of the next few weeks, a small team from 18F and Office of Products and Programs are working on reimagining a future DigitalGov and DigitalGov University. We are looking to talk to a few readers of DigitalGov.
During National Customer Service Week, it’s a great time for organizations across industry and government to celebrate putting customers at the center of our work and to think about what we can do to improve our customers’ end-to-end experiences. When you think this big, it can be a little daunting, but the good news is that we’re doing a lot, and a simple shift in mindset can get us much further.
Understanding our Veterans and their unique needs and experiences is at the heart of creating a more Veteran-centered VA. By listening to their voices and the stories they share, we can design services and experiences that meet the needs of Veterans. Taking a step towards a deeper understanding of our Veterans, in the fall of 2014, the Veteran’s Affairs Center for Innovation (VACI) launched its second Human-Centered design research program.
One year ago this week, we launched vote.gov (also known as vote.usa.gov). It’s a concise and simple site with a single mission: direct citizens through the voter registration process as quickly as possible. It was created by a joint team of USA.gov staffers and Presidential Innovation Fellows, all of whom work within the General Services Administration (GSA). Did it work? Yes. In fact, it worked so well that Facebook made it the destination for their 2016 voter registration drive.
What does Snapchat, the disappearing message-and-video platform most used by teenagers, have to do with government outreach and communications programs? Well, Snapchat has quickly become an incredibly effective digital storytelling medium, and content creators across multiple government agencies have adopted it as an important part of their programs. A recent New York Times article described how nearly 35 million users in the United States watched highlights and stories from the Summer Olympics on Snapchat.
Many content managers in the digital world understand the irrepressible desire to improve, fix, edit, add, and move things around. It’s our job, after all, to nurture the ongoing process of creating, updating, and testing. But, there are those sites or pages that never seem to make it to the high-priority list. For our Web team, this was our Center’s staff Intranet site. Our Web team recognized that the Intranet was in need of attention.
Social Security joins you and your family in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15. We know the contributions of Hispanics can be traced to before the origins of the United States with the discovery, exploration, and naming of many places in our nation, such as state names like California, Colorado, and Texas and city names like San Antonio, Santa Barbara, and Boca Raton. Hispanics have influenced every facet of life, from language to our cultural development.
No Longer an Idea of the Future, Artificial Intelligence Is Here and You Are Probably Already Using It
It might surprise some of you to know that artificial intelligence (AI) is already in use and a routine part of our daily lives, but we leverage this technology when we use our smartphones or other devices to ask Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Now, or Amazon’s Alexa a question to get the facts or data we are looking for. Using your voice, you can say, “Where’s the nearest gas station?
We are working hard to serve you and continue to make improvements to Emma, our Spanish-speaking Interactive Virtual Assistant. Help us improve Emma’s knowledge by continuing to ask your immigration-related questions on USCIS.gov/es from any device. This blog will help you understand a little bit more about how Emma works and how you can help her serve you better. Our Interactive Virtual Assistant (IVA) “Emma” is available in English at USCIS.
When you want to do a usability test, sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone and get creative to get the job done. That’s just what happened to us. We’re well practiced at usability testing at USAGov—in person, remote, hallway tests, first-click tests—all of these things we manage without blinking an eye. But this spring, we tried something new. Our office was planning to make some changes to our IVR script.
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.
Have you ever wondered how to measure a customer’s experience? I’ve thought about it, specifically about how to measure the experience with services from government agencies. This is a complex topic because government services can be vastly different from each other. These services range from: issuing fishing and hunting permits, social security benefits, unemployment insurance, job training, business licenses, food inspection, and medical and mental health services to veterans. Honestly, I was overwhelmed.
Have you been hearing the terms “Customer Experience” or “CX” a lot lately? Maybe you’re wondering how they relate to customer service, or maybe you want to learn more about CX and how it can help your customers. Whether you directly interact with customers, support front line employees, or manage program operations, your work has an impact on your agency’s customers. And it’s very important that excellent customer service be at the forefront in the federal government because we impact so many lives.
The debate between responsive websites and mobile apps took a decisive turn this week when the United Kingdom’s Digital Service (UKDS) banned the creation of mobile apps. In an interview with GovInsider, the founder of UKDS, Ben Terrett, explained that mobile apps were too expensive to build and maintain. Responsive websites were easier to build and updating the application only requires changing one platform. “For government services that we were providing, the web is a far far better way… and still works on mobile,” Terrett said.
It is at the intersections of fields where you find the most fascinating and innovative concepts. Recently, a conference on “Open Human Resources and the Cognitive Era” explored the use of chatbots and blockchain technologies in human resources. Human Resources (HR) is quietly undergoing a revolution as many HR practitioners are transforming HR by using open source concepts. It is fascinating to see how cognitive technologies and cloud technologies are changing HR from a transactional and compliance function to an essential strategic organizational asset.
If you were to spend any time with me in the kitchen, you would often find me searching out substitutions for ingredients that I don’t have on hand or have to drive 100 miles to find. I don’t want to abandon the recipe, so I substitute instead. I find that in the world of internal government IT systems, recipes for success are hard to come by. So, what do I do?
Good communicators are always…well…evaluating the way they communicate. As we think of the “customer experience,” it is key to constantly consider your methods for engaging with your audience. Just as the platforms themselves continue to change to keep their audience, continuing to refine our ways of sending messages will assure that you don’t get left behind. With the explosion of social media, almost to the point of supplanting traditional media, various software platforms seek to assist communicators with planning and even the day-to-day.
At USAGov, we always put our customers first. In the wake of our rebranding efforts, our desire to create a positive user experience across the organization has pushed us to turn a scrutinous eye toward Kids.gov — a site focused on providing information and resources to parents, teachers, and kids. In a cross-organizational effort, individuals from the marketing, user experience, and performance measurement teams have joined forces to “reenvision” the site’s content and presentation to better suit the public’s needs.
Customers are not the only group with whom we need to effectively communicate as we work to improve our quality of service. Effective communication between employees and leadership is critical to improving the customer experience. Front line employees interact with the public on a regular basis, and if employees do not have the information they need, or if they are not happy in their work, customers can see that. Here are some tips to improve internal communications.
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.
With the recent launch of the Core Federal Services Council—which seeks to improve the customer experience for core federal programs by ensuring use of customer feedback data and identifying strategies—building on the Feedback USA pilot, the Federal Front Door and other customer experience initiatives, 2016 may in fact be the Year of the Customer. But, how do we ensure these efforts can build momentum and lead to meaningful change in government?
Ten months ago, I wrote about the rise of the post-app world in which mobile personal assistants would do the work of five to 10 apps combined. These mobile personal assistants, now known as chatbots, would work through conversational interfaces (voice and instant messaging, for example). The idea is to build more natural interfaces for people to access information services and perform complicated online tasks. Facebook has now joined in the new conversational commerce marketspace along with Google and Apple.
Employee engagement, evidenced by displays of dedication, persistence, effort and overall attachment to organization and mission, is a key factor in business success, but it can be a struggle for government organizations. Organizational leaders seeking to cultivate a culture of engagement need tangible examples of how to successfully move the needle in a positive direction. The annual Employee Viewpoint Survey (EVS) can provide agencies with a tangible way to measure employee engagement.
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.
At GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies (OCSIT), we offer technology services and tools to make government work better. To help us gauge the effectiveness of the programs we offer to other government agencies, in 2013 we launched our first Government Customer Experience Index (GCXi) survey. This annual email survey consistently measures customer satisfaction, loyalty and ease of use for various OCSIT programs. A previous post about the GCXi (OCSIT’s 2015 Customer Survey—What We Learned) generated lots of questions from readers about the back-end processes we use to conduct the survey and turn customer data into action.
As a followup to the recent post about our annual customer satisfaction survey, we wanted to dig into the data and share some of the overall results, to give you some more insights into how we’re using your feedback to improve our programs and services. Background: For the past three years, GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies (OCSIT) has conducted an annual survey to measure customer satisfaction.
Customer experience, or CX, is everywhere these days. Companies tout how they’re improving the customer experience with faster service, greater convenience or better products. If you’re wondering how customer “experience” differs from customer “service,” customer service usually involves a single interaction, such as a phone call to your cable company, while the customer experience encompasses the entire relationship, e.g., from how you originally selected your cable company, to their service throughout the course of your entire relationship with them.
Three years ago, GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies (OCSIT) set out to design a system to consistently measure customer satisfaction across our office. We were inspired by the Digital Government Strategy, which tasks agencies to adopt a customer-centric approach to service delivery. Armed with tools such as the Digital Analytics Program (DAP), which offers guidance on common customer satisfaction metrics, we developed a Government Customer Experience Index (GCXi) for OCSIT.
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.
OMB’s Lisa Danzig, who co-leads the Cross Agency Priority (CAP) Customer Service Goal with Carolyn Colvin, from the Social Security Administration, shared a status update on the CAP goal work they’ve done since we last spoke with her, earlier this year. Background When the public comes to the federal government for information and services, they should receive an optimal customer experience. The Customer Service CAP goal spells out specific strategies to help us achieve this.
The new Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST) aims to make government programs more effective and efficient. Amira Choueiki from the SBST joined us to explain what the SBST does, and to discuss some of the projects they’ve worked on. Amira also shared how agencies can propose projects for the SBST to tackle, and explained how social and behavioral sciences, customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) work together to enhance government products and services.
It’s not new that agencies are inundated with data, but what data should you collect to improve your agency’s programs and enhance the customer experience? The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefit Security Administration’s (EBSA) has been perfecting their process to collect actionable data for the past 14 years. EBSA is a regulatory agency that develops and enforces private sector employee benefit plans, such as 401Ks, traditional pensions, and health care benefit plans.
In honor of World Usability Day, which happened on November 12, we’d like to demystify two extremely important and oft-confusing acronyms—CX and UX. Customer Experience (CX) and User Experience (UX), while related, focus on different aspects of service delivery. The New Landscape We first discussed this issue in the summer of 2014, in our UX vs. CX article, but a lot has changed in this space across government in the past year or so.
Meeting customer needs can be done, no matter what agency you represent. A panel discussion at the 2015 DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit delved into customer experience (CX) work at three agencies with diverse missions. Andrew Hughey, Product Development Director at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), moderated the panel that featured Stephanie Thum, Vice President of Customer Experience at the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank), and David Simeon, myUSCIS product manager for U.
A review of the Digital Analytics Program (DAP) data confirms what many are already saying: Content is being viewed on mobile devices more than ever before, and the percentage of sessions via mobile devices is growing. Three things are evident when looking at the breakdown of sessions on federal government websites across device types over the last three years: Percentage of tablet sessions stayed about the same (~7%) Share of sessions via desktop (includes laptop) dropped significantly (from 80% to 66%) Share of sessions via mobile devices (not including tablet) more than doubled (from 13% to 27%) Within the last year, we saw the combined mobile and tablet percentage exceed one-third of all sessions.
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.
How well do you know your customers? There’s a new guide out from the Excellence In Government (EIG) Fellows Program to help you do just that. Led by the Partnership for Public Service, EIG is a federal government initiative to train future leaders. This year, three hundred federal employees took the EIG journey to learn about Values, Vision, Mission, Driving Results, Leading People, Leading Change, Building Partnership and Coalitions, Business Acumen, Synthesis and Celebration.
We recently polled the Customer Experience Community of Practice (CX-COP) to discover what kinds of training people needed most to improve customer experience at their agency. The most requested topic was measurement: specifically tools, analytics, and how to turn customer data into action. To learn how agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services use data to inform customer understanding and make program improvements, we invited Jon Booth, Director of Web and New Media at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), to speak to the CX-COP via a webinar on Using Customer Feedback to Improve HealthCare.
In 1992, Congress passed Public Law No: 102-481, which proclaimed the first full week in October as National Customer Service Week. Customer service is also a Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal, tasking agencies to “deliver world-class customer services to citizens by making it faster and easier for individuals and businesses to complete transactions and have a positive experience with government.” Federal agencies are encouraged to participate in Customer Service Week, to share how you’re working to improve service, and to recognize your agency’s customer service stars.
Customer experience is about making sure needs are met. It’s certainly not a new concept for business; every bookstore has a customer service section. Government agencies are slightly different though. Often people are driven to public services by need or regulation, not choice. Government traditionally didn’t need to court positive attention. The increasing prominence of digital communication and the ability to shine a light on perceived and real inabilities to meet needs means a renewed emphasis on customer service.
Customer Experience (CX) deserves a voice at an agency’s senior levels. Putting CX at the forefront of policy-making decisions will have the most positive impact for customers. Elevating CX is how the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) champions the 22 million applicants seeking $150 billion in education loans each year. Brenda Wensil, Chief Customer Experience Officer at FSA, shared her insights with DigitalGov University in a July 28, 2015, webinar about the establishment of the FSA CX Team.
Journey maps are a visual representation of a customer’s end to end journey with your product or service. They are a powerful tool for exploring key interactions and experiences with your organization, programs, and/or services. Journey maps describe a customer’s entire journey, even the parts that occur before and after contact with your organization. They typically contain elements such as the customer’s attitudes, emotions, and needs. We recently updated USA.
Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goals prioritize activities that all agencies must tackle each year. An important CAP Goal for 2015 addresses customer service and compels federal agencies to improve the quality of service the public receives from the federal government. To build on the momentum of this goal, the government Customer Experience Community of Practice (CX-COP) was launched in early 2015. The CX-COP supports collaboration and sharing among government customer experience practitioners.
In June, the new Customer Experience Community of Practice (CX-COP) hosted Jonathan Stahl, Executive Director of Ballpark Operations and Guest Experience of the Washington Nationals, to share best practices on how to deliver a great customer experience. Below are four insights he shared. Develop and Share Core Values The Nationals’ core organizational values are excellence, performance and accountability. The core values are posted prominently wherever employees gather, such as break rooms, on the way to the field, and in offices.
To provide great customer service, bring your agency’s customers to the table. This is one of many insights recently offered by Stephanie Thum, Vice President of Customer Experience at the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Thum has previously written about customer experience for DigitalGov, including Three Ways to Evolve Your Agency’s Customer Mindset and the forward-looking Will 2016 Be the Federal Government’s ‘Year of the Customer?’ In May, Thum sat down with DigitalGov to dig deeper into the federal customer experience (CX) landscape.
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).
DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit: Reflections from Our Livestream Host, and Full Recording Now Available!
The second annual DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit was held at GSA headquarters in Washington, DC on May 21. This year’s Summit sold out early to in person attendees, attracted nearly 1,200 folks to sign up, and for the first time a live stream was offered for online viewers across the country. I was honored to serve as this year’s virtual livestream host for the Summit. We’ve kicked off the #DigitalGov15 Summit with @USCTO @jakegab @gwynnek @PSChrousos!
We recently sat down with Lisa Danzig, who’s leading work at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on the FY15 Cross Agency Priority (CAP) goal on Customer Service (CS). The CS CAP goal aims to help agencies deliver world-class customer service to citizens that’s on par with leading private sector services by streamlining transactions, setting customer service standards for high impact services, and making it faster and easier to complete transactions with government online.
Design research isn’t rocket science. But for many of us in the federal government, it can seem daunting and unfamiliar. We’re here to to help demystify the process of design research for those of you ready to wade into the waters. We’ve both done our fair share of design researching at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) over the past year. It hasn’t been easy—we’ve worked under itty bitty budgets and crazy timelines.
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.
It’s been a while, but in previous posts, I described what we’ve learned from operating StudentAid.gov, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid website created to educate students and borrowers about the federal student aid programs and process and help them make informed decisions about financing college and career school. We first released the site in 2012, but we haven’t sat still yet! The plan has always been to create new and integrate current features that exist on other FSA websites.
When focusing on customer experience, we all know that we need to truly understand our customer if we expect to provide them with an enjoyable experience. In an effort to do so, organizations often jump right to a survey to identify their customers’ needs and wants. While surveys are a great first step to understanding customers, they’re not the only step. The most you should expect from a well-crafted survey is detailed knowledge in the form of hard data indicating where to conduct further research.
Surveys are a great way to gain valuable insight into your customers’ true interests and needs. With the abundant number of survey tools available, it’s almost too easy to quickly put together a survey and send it out to your target audience. All too often, organizations will be in a hurry to get their survey out and will send out a long, wordy introductory message for a survey, or conversely, will not provide enough context.
The federal government is increasingly focused on designing and delivering citizen-centered services with enhanced experiences that deliver value to customers. These ideals are established in the Presidential Management Agenda Customer Service Cross-Agency Priority Goal, the Digital Government Strategy, and various open government activities. Designing services to be responsive to be life events that drive public needs is a powerful way to deliver citizen-centered value. What is a “life event?” Life events are events that have a significant impact in a citizen’s/stakeholder’s life and that warrant government awareness or involvement.
We know search engines aren’t Magic 8 Balls, but that’s still how we expect them to behave. We want them to answer our complex and burning questions based on just a few words. And we’ve felt that frustration when the top search results don’t serve our needs, and the results page itself makes us work. At DigitalGov Search, we think a lot about how to make the public’s search experience on government websites better.
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.
As the product manager of Sites, my job is to make sure that our service delivers what we offer: provide an easy, fast and cost‐effective solution for federal agencies that want to create a secure government website to reach the public. With 40 websites that are currently live or in active development, our program is constantly evolving. Our roadmap is filled with milestones designed to improve our service, address our customers’ needs, and keep our platform up to date.
This month, our round up focuses on customer experience (CX). As I was rounding up the CX events and articles we’ve shared on DigitalGov over the past year, I realized that CX touches all of the work we do. From Web to mobile to contact centers and social media, we need to not only be aware of our customers’ experiences but also respond quickly and make changes that will enhance their experiences.
Recently, Forrester Research analyst Leah Buley wrote a blog post and report that reminded me of our “what’s the diff?” article on customer experience vs. user experience. In them, she describes the difference between customer experience professionals (CX) and user experience professionals (UX). A Forrester survey found that about 40% of the time, CX and UX are formalized functions in a corporation. That’s good news, but they are only a joint operation about 10% of the time.
“The customer is king.” “The customer is always right.” Regardless of your feelings on these age-old customer service adages, the fact remains: we’re all serving someone. No matter what corner of the federal digital space you occupy, you are connecting with people, and the outcome of those connections matters. To recognize the importance of these relationships, DigitalGov is focusing on customer service as our May monthly theme. There are numerous ways to look at the customer experience and many digital professionals may ask themselves, how is it different from user experience?
The federal government has caught the customer experience bug. We want our customers to complete their tasks with minimal effort using a streamlined process. If they need personal help, we want it to be quick, polite, and provide the best answer. But that personal help frequently requires a team of highly skilled, dedicated people—a contact center. When people call to ask how much it will or should cost their agency to have a contact center, I can’t give them an answer.
For more than 40 years, Warren Snaider has been working at the General Services Administration providing government information to the public. A Senior Federal Information Specialist, Snaider has witnessed government contact centers evolve as technology has changed the way people communicate and access information. Snaider first joined the Federal Information Center in Sacramento in 1972. His was one of 41 centers across the United States where people could walk into the lobby of a federal building and ask questions.
Social media tools can amplify your agency’s message, but they are also a meeting space for two-way conversations. They can be a key tool to resolve user issues and deliver excellent customer service. This is true for agencies in every corner of the government space. In honor of our monthly contact center theme, we reached out to the Social Media Community of Practice to learn more about how social media complements the work of federal contact centers.
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.
At the end of last year, DigitalGov posted an article predicting that 2016 would be the year of the customer. Stephanie Thum, Vice President of Customer Experience at Export-Import Bank, looked at the great strides made in federal customer service in 2014 and called it the year of “planting seeds.” She then pointed to 2015 as the year of “germination and nurturing.” Our DigitalGov team decided to go to the root of a lot of agency customer service: contact centers.
The federal government has IT challenges, and innovative federal projects are tackling those challenges head-on. As projects gain momentum, outside organizations have taken notice. Recently, Data.gov and DigitalGov’s Digital Analytics Program (DAP) were recognized by the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC), among 30 other finalists for the Igniting Innovation Award. ACT-IAC’s 2015 Igniting Innovation Showcase and Awards recognized tools, solutions, services and programs developed by government and industry leaders.
The General Services Administration’s (GSA’s) focus on customer experience can be traced back to its inception on July 1, 1949, when President Truman created a new federal agency to manage and store government records, handle emergency preparedness, and stockpile strategic supplies for wartime. While our customer focus has stayed with us, GSA’s mission has morphed and expanded to include real estate, contracting, technology, and much more. With such a wide and varied portfolio, it’s often hard for customers to navigate all the programs and services we offer, so we’re making some changes to improve customer experience at GSA.
With public expectations at an all-time high, and trust in government nearing all-time lows, agencies need to step up their game. Veterans, seniors, students, taxpayers—all Americans—deserve the best service from their government. Here are our predictions for how the federal government will improve customer service in the coming year: 1. Many agencies will create a Customer Office that reports to the head of the agency. In most government agencies, no one owns the overall customer experience.
In January on DigitalGov, we’ll highlight pieces looking at trends we see coming in the digital government space in 2015 and beyond. We have lined up articles around: Customer Service Data 3D Printing at NIH and NASA Accessibility Mobile, and Training. Check back Monday, when we kick-off the month with 15 Government Customer Service Trends. And you can look at some of our most recent monthly theme articles in: crowdsourcing, user experience, and mobile.
Smartphones are changing how organizations do business—they are more than just smart Web browsers. As I noted last week, purchases from mobile phones have dramatically increased during the holiday shopping season. The infographic from IfByPhone demonstrates how people are using their smartphones not only to buy things and research products, but also to open emails and access social media. Users also still call organizations on the go. 87% of smartphone and tablet owners use their devices to shop.
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.
One challenge with digital government: it’s hard to see people. If you work at a U.S. Post Office, you interact with your customers, talk with them, and even see what they are feeling by looking at their faces. You can understand their experience fairly easily. In the digital world, technology decreases physical distance but increases the personal distance between us and our audience. Often we have to make sense of piles of data and user comments to determine if people even like what we offer or find it valuable.
DigitalGov University took the pulse of our participants this spring and found that our audience wants more information about events, wants us to better communicate the value of programs and wants more access to our programs. DigitalGov University (DGU) is a platform for feds to share ideas, experiences and techniques to meet 21st century public expectations for digital government. We host live events and webinars to supplement the content on DigitalGov geared toward feds working in the digital space.
They say that customer experience (CX) is the new marketing. People will tell their friends about their experience with your agency, and social media makes it easy to broadcast whether the experience was easy and enjoyable, or terrible. In 1992, Congress proclaimed the first full week in October as National Customer Service Week, and as we close out Customer Service Week 2014, here’s a recap of some great customer-service-related articles published on DigitalGov.
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.
After an agency-wide redesign of program websites that targeted the public and prioritized a common “look and feel,” the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement at the Administration for Children and Families had a visually appealing website. The problem: Key stakeholders—state and tribal child support agencies, employers, and other partners who deliver program services and access the site daily—complained they could no longer easily find needed information. Their feedback prompted us to facilitate a UX-minded focus group to recommend improvements that met both users’ business needs and the redesign goals.
The good news: Your boss is interested in User Experience! The news: She wants you to do something about it… NOW. Well, don’t be alarmed; you can start by figuring out two simple things: Identify the Stage you’re in in the development cycle. Write it down. Choose a User Experience (UX) Technique that makes sense in your development stage. While choosing the technique you should first know what the technique offers and how long it takes, so you can make an informed decision.
As technology changes, government must change with it to address new challenges and take advantage of new opportunities. This Administration has made important strides in modernizing government so that it serves its constituents more effectively and efficiently, but we know there is much more to do. Last year, a group of digital and technology experts from the private sector helped us fix HealthCare.gov—a turnaround that enabled millions of Americans to sign up for quality health insurance.
Since April of 2011 when President Obama signed Executive Order 13571 mandating agencies improve the quality of service they give to the public, agencies have been working through strategies to best fulfill this task. We at GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies (OCSIT) were no exception. Back in September of 2013, we wrote a blog about how important it is for a Customer Experience (CX) Program to have shared principles and values, as well as understanding who our customers are and their expectations.
Live Web chat is an important component of good customer service. People like having the option of talking with an agent in real-time without having to pick up the phone. While live chat is not widespread, several agencies have shown great success in serving the public through this alternative channel. At a recent Government Contact Center Council meeting, colleagues from HHS (cancer.gov), Education (StudentAid.gov), and GSA (USA.gov) shared their challenges and successes in implementing and managing Web chat.
“User Experience” and “Customer Experience.” They sound pretty similar, right? Well, here at the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, we look at it like this: User Experience (UX) deals with people interacting with your product and the experience they receive from that interaction. UX is measured with metrics like: success rate, error rate, abandonment rate, time to complete task, and (since we deal in digital) clicks to completion.
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.
Two years ago, federal agencies were set on a fast track to create a 21st century digital government. The Federal Digital Strategy served up a heaping set of deliverables on a tight timeline. Agencies opened data sets, built mobile apps and websites, published APIs, created and updated digital governance structures, and joined with other agencies in measuring digital services performance. Last May, as the final deadlines were met, some asked, “What’s next?
As government contact centers, we all face financial and technological constraints in our pursuit to improve the customer experience. One challenge faced by many contact centers is staffing limitations to handle the volume of incoming customer traffic. There are barely enough employees to operate phones, let alone work on meeting or exceeding the organizational customer satisfaction performance goals. One initiative that was important to the City of Philadelphia’s 311 non-emergency contact center was the successful collection of customer feedback and coaching our employees to improve the customers’ experience with each transaction.
Slowness Hurts Web Pages Have you ever been frustrated when visiting a Web page that doesn’t load quickly? Have you ever left a slow Web page before it finished loading? You’re not alone. Several recent studies have quantified customers’ frustration with slow Web pages. Customers now expect results in the blink of an eye. This expectation means that your customers are won or lost in one second. A one second delay in loading a Web page equals 11% fewer page views, 16% decrease in customer satisfaction, and 7% loss in conversions.
All of us want to improve the content and information we provide to the public, but we’re intimidated by where to start: Does our website provide clear content? Is the best information hidden on pages a few layers down? What should we tweet about this month? What are customers saying about our information? The best source of this information is a resource right in your agency–your agency’s Contact Center.
There’s tons of great work and innovations happening in federal agencies, and it is happening fast. From mobile, to social, to user experience, to APIs, to data and codesharing, agencies are embracing the 21st century citizen expectations and working to deliver anytime, anywhere, any device services and information to the public. How do we tap into this agency expertise? Learn from others’ hits and misses? Identify roadmaps, sample documents, tools?
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.
Let’s ponder this for a moment: Maybe you live in South Florida. Maybe the weather is warm, beautiful, sunny. Maybe you’re looking forward to a few days of boating while the rest of the country battles ice storms, snow drifts and various states of emergency. (We can dream, can’t we?) But before you venture out onto that blue paradise, you probably need a few important items to ensure smooth sailing.
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.
Using contact centers to deliver digital services is an emerging area in government. Due to the growth of online services, centers receive more attention and represent an important touch point for customers. When you need to speak directly with someone to get help or resolve an issue, it must be a good experience. This reflects on all channels associated with that brand. Timeliness of resolving your problem, question or request.
Before you can create your customer experience (CX) strategy, you have to answer the key question: Who are your customers? Consider the concept that among the groups you interact with internally, you could be their customer, they could be your customer, or you could be partners. In our office, we have two organizations that support our programs: a business office and the internal technology support organization. Our business office includes personnel, contracting, budget, space, etc.
In the Discipline of Market Leaders by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema, we learned about the importance of being clear about your strategic priority. What unique value do you bring to the marketplace and your customers? In this book, they describe three strategic priorities of operational excellence, product leadership and customer intimacy. Companies that focus on operational excellence don’t innovate products or service. However, they do operate a hassle-free service with low prices.
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.
In our very first customer experience (CX) blog post about GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies’ (OCSIT) Customer Experience Program, we published our principles and values. Our core principles say that all staff will: Take responsibility for providing an experience greater than customer expectations. Engage, listen and resolve. Design business from the outside in, not the inside out. Incorporate customer experience as a key success metric in everything we do.
As mentioned in previous blog posts, great efforts have been made in creating a Customer Experience program and a Customer Experience (CX) index in our Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies (OCSIT) at GSA. Our office manages well over 10 programs, including websites, a contact center, search services, and other tools. And we wanted to be able to create a picture of how our office is performing as a whole, in the eyes of our customers.
Guest post by Brenda Wensil, Chief Customer Experience Officer for Federal Student Aid. Established in late 2010, FSA’s Customer Experience Office is responsible for identifying, measuring and reporting customer expectations and satisfaction with the financial aid services and products offered at Federal Student Aid. In my last post, I shared about last year’s launch of StudentAid.gov by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA). The new site consolidates and combines content and interactive tools from multiple web sites and features instructional videos and infographics to help answer frequent questions about federal financial aid.
Guest post by Ellen Langhans, healthfinder.gov Program Manager in the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the Department of Health and Human Services, with contribution from Tim Hudak, Web Analytics Specialist in the Office of Communications at the Department of Agriculture. How can we get more of our subscribers to open the emails we send? This is a question that anyone who creates email campaigns for newsletters or other communications is always wondering.
What’s one of the most important factors in delivering a good customer experience? When I first began learning about customer experience, one of the biggest surprises was the importance of culture. Organizational culture can be defined as the values and behavior that contribute to the unique and psychological environment of an organization.It’s based on shared attitudes, beliefs, customs, and written and unwritten rules that have been developed over time and are considered valued.
Do you know who your customers are? And what they expect from your organization? One of the most critical components of a successful customer experience program is to understand your customer. The first step is knowing who your customers are. Are they veterans, students, senior citizens or other federal workers? In some cases your customers could wear many different hats when interacting with your agency. They could be a veteran, a caregiver, a parent, and a federal worker, all rolled into one.
In my last post I talked about how we’re kicking off our Customer Experience program in the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies (OCSIT) at GSA. There are many paths to creating a customer experience program, from starting with cultural issues like employee engagement and telling our customer experience stories, to events highlighting the plan moving forward. While we have been working diligently on employee engagement issues and talking about customer experience for a while, devising measurable outcomes to drive behavior change and new processes is our approach.
The vision for my office, the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies (OCSIT) at GSA, is simple: Deliver a world-class experience to the public when accessing government information and services – anytime, anywhere – through the delivery channel they choose. We create and leverage products, services and approaches federal agencies can easily adopt that will enhance their ability to innovate, deliver services, engage the public, and save valuable resources.
Can you imagine how frustrating and confusing it would be to find several variations of the same agency name on different sites or even different pages or documents on the same site? This is what happens everyday to Spanish-speaking customers accessing the Spanish names of some federal agencies. They try to navigate the website to perform important tasks like applying for benefits, accessing health information, doing business over the Internet or filling out forms.
Everyone wants to know how to provide outstanding customer experience in government. It can be difficult, because everyday our customers are also doing business with companies like Starbucks, Zappos, and Virgin America, that excel in customer service. Those experiences drive high expectations for interacting with any organization, including government agencies. Customer experience–referred to in the industry as “CX”–is more than just a product. It’s about the perception your customer has every time they interact with your office, your agency or any product within your organization.
Great websites for kids have many of the same features as websites for adults, but some key differences are worth noting when writing digital content for kids or teens. Kids have short attention spans, so it’s important to keep your site engaging, fun, and active. Here are a few tips from Kids.gov on ways to create great online content for kids: Make your kids’ website fun and interactive When your site is interactive, kids don’t even realize that they’re learning.