Last November, the Government Accountability Office issued its proposed management agenda for the next presidential administration. For those who have been working for the past four years to make government services more citizen-centric, there’s a tremendous opportunity to advance the customer agenda within government and take it to a higher level.
To understand the potential, one must think beyond one-off projects and consider the principles, concepts and six core competencies of customer experience as a management discipline, as taught by the nonprofit Customer Experience Professionals Association:
- Customer-centric culture (including employee training)
- Voice of the customer (quantitative and qualitative research)
- Organizational adoption/accountability (including cross-organizational collaboration)
- Customer experience strategy (including employee engagement)
- Experience design and innovation (using customer insights to define and prioritize requirements and opportunities for improvement)
- Metrics and measurement (such as program evaluations)
Now, look specifically at GAO's recommendations for human capital, collaboration, and performance, and apply the core competencies.
- Strengthen Human Capital Capabilities to Enhance Performance. GAO's recommendations acknowledge that people, training, and technical skills help agencies achieve effective operational performance. It just makes sense that customer expectations play into the selection of those people, programs and needed skill sets. When hiring and training plans go into development, CX pros need to be at the table. Share with colleagues customer feedback, survey data, and contact center recordings, for example, to demonstrate what customers need from staff. Those needs may indeed be technical in nature, but oftentimes non-technical skills like interpersonal communication skills, written communication, listening, and teamwork ability, are just as important to working effectively with customers. CX pros need to talk about it openly, at the table with colleagues.
- Collaborate to Achieve National Outcomes. GAO cites cost savings as a major reason for this objective. But good cross-agency collaboration is the holy grail for government customer experience. When agencies can work together to share customer information, rather than make customers repeat application efforts as they move from agency to agency for similar services, for example, then we are on the right path to governmentwide customer-centric practices. But, collaboration isn't a natural human skill for everyone. Successful collaborations are neither simple nor easy. You will need to know your agency, resources, and people; your partner agency's goals and people; and your respective appetites for change. You have to go to the table with the customer perspective, seek out collaborative opportunities, and get involved in cross-agency task forces.
- Improve Federal Performance to Better Achieve Results. This is my favorite GAO recommendation because it calls for agencies to get serious about using timely and high-quality data to identify customer service improvement opportunities. There is also a recommendation here to for agencies to form and fund central program evaluation offices (perhaps like USTDA). CX pros should stay close to evaluations programs, processes, and data to create and build the case for customer experience improvement work or projects. CX pros should think seriously about serving in evaluation program leadership roles, or as part of program evaluation committees, to ensure customer data stays front-and-center in evaluating overall agency operations.
The presidential transition is an opportune time for those involved in government customer experience work to think more broadly than just those few pages marked "customer service" in GAO's new proposed management agenda. The work can grow, if we dig deeper and apply the full range of concepts and principles of customer experience as a management discipline, no matter how the new administration's management agenda actually unfolds.
Stephanie Thum, CCXP, is the former vice president of customer experience at the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Follow her on Twitter: @stephaniethum