Sep 21 2022

Coordination and Cooperation Are Key to Federal Customer Experience Success

To meet the requirements of President Biden’s executive order, agencies must plan for the long run and not the short term.

Recent guidance from the Office of Management and Budget designated $100 million of the Technology Modernization Fund to prioritize citizen experience and streamline federal service delivery.

The TMF funding is one of the latest in a series of moves from the Biden administration to deliver modern, accessible digital experiences to people seeking government services, which began with the president’s Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government in late 2021.

The CX EO directs agencies to orient federal customer journeys around five critical life events that require significant interaction with government: retiring, recovering from disaster, navigating from active duty to civilian life, birth and early childhood, and facing a financial shock.

The implementation of tools intended to drive digital transformation during these events must be grounded in a clear understanding of what matters to the federal customer. Especially during periods of major transition or crisis, citizens need services that are predictable, easy to access and responsive to their needs.

To achieve key CX goals, agencies must prioritize reliable and scalable outcomes using interoperable solutions that build on the tools and systems they already have in place.

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Build Trust in Government Through CX

Many of the core CX challenges facing agencies are not new. Government websites, documents and forms are often slow, confusing and difficult to navigate, particularly for people who access them primarily on a mobile device or who need them in another language.

As the end of the fiscal year approaches and agencies prepare to take advantage of CX funding through vehicles such as the TMF, the promise of enterprise-grade digital transformation is an attractive one. Yet it’s not a direct path to meeting citizens’ needs. Instead, agencies can strengthen CX at every step of the federal customer journey by setting clear expectations and meeting them consistently.

A positive citizen experience builds trust in government and increases the efficiency and quality of services. A negative one can cripple that trust, particularly when it comes during a moment of vulnerability.

OMB’s focus on major life events reflects the need to ensure that citizens can rely on government when they need it most. To realize this vision, agencies must place an equal emphasis on people and processes as they do on technology.

READ MORE: Some agencies have streamlined their websites to make them more customer-friendly.

Interagency coordination is essential to this effort. Effective interagency alignment to create clear pathways, streamlined documents and forms, and consistent information is crucial to increasing access and building trust.

For example, a modernized form created with the participation of multiple agencies could allow a service member transitioning to civilian life to complete a unified set of documents that can be used across departments and agencies to access benefits, which reduces the opportunity for errors and simplifies the process overall.

When systems function seamlessly across agencies, departments and offices, they yield considerable benefits for government employees and citizens. Through coordination among federal CIOs and CTOs to develop processes with citizen experience at the forefront, federal agencies can better achieve their CX EO priorities.

Extend Goals of Predictability and Consistency to the Workforce

Buy-in from the federal workforce is just as important as alignment at the highest level of government leadership. The digital systems that citizens rely on must work efficiently and consistently for federal employees to maximize their capacity to deliver complex outcomes.

On the back end, smooth processes that clearly track workflow and approvals ensure every interaction is repeatable. As a result, they offer citizens a more accurate estimate of the progress of their requests. On the workforce side, tools that speed up rote tasks give federal employees more time and resources to coordinate and work strategically.

Critically, none of the everyday work of government can stop while agencies implement improvements. While funding deadlines can create pressure to solve immediate problems quickly, piecemeal additions or solutions that require a rip-and-replace approach could threaten the integrity of existing services.

DIVE DEEPER: Get more tips on how to prepare agencies for CX success.

Further, agencies must be prepared to absorb both user and employee learning curves when new technologies are introduced, bridging gaps with legacy systems to break down silos and barriers rather than creating new ones.

Changes to government platforms — even if they deliver better citizen and employee experiences in the long run — will always face the initial challenge of users not knowing what to expect and therefore being less satisfied with their experience overall.

Close collaboration among government agencies and technology providers to chart steady improvements to legacy systems can help agencies mitigate the inevitable friction that results from new systems, processes and tools.

Scale Solutions for the Long Run

The TMF’s CX-specific funding, in tandem with the CX EO and other government initiatives, indicates an acknowledgement of the current system’s shortcomings and a willingness to address those inefficacies.

While a step in the right direction, it is equally important to recognize that CX initiatives will be a long-term effort, and any solutions adopted must be able to grow to service the entire U.S. population. Furthermore, solutions must remain adaptable at scale and designed with agility at the core and the rapidly changing technological ecosystem in mind.

EXPLORE: How government leaders are talking about inclusion in the IT workforce.

The most effective way to ensure scalability and agility is to keep disparate organizations and agencies moving in the same direction. Guidance from the OMB and the CX EO are effective tools to keep priorities clear, consistent and achievable.

Collaboration with industry partners who understand those priorities, in conjunction with top-down alignment and bottom-up support, can deliver lasting, transformational change in how U.S. citizens engage with the services intended to meet their most critical needs.

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