Jason Salmon/Shutterstock.com

Use Data, Not Assumptions, to Improve the Customer Experience

Agencies misunderstand their customers when datasets are not integrated or widely shared.

Agency leaders and the citizens they serve are not always on the same page.

Most federal leaders assume they understand the needs and problems of those coming to them for assistance, whether it’s veterans, businesses, college students, senior citizens or others who rely on the government for help. But they do not always have data to justify those assumptions about their customers. 

A new report from the Partnership for Public Service and Accenture Federal Services, “Government for the People: The road to customer-centered services,” examined agency efforts to implement a customer-centered approach, and found many challenges. At the same time, the report offers examples of successes that can be replicated across government.

Leaders interviewed rated their customer service with an average grade of “B.” But this relatively high self-assessment contrasted with low citizen satisfaction scores on the 2015 American Customer Satisfaction Index. The federal government’s index score is the lowest it has been in nearly a decade.

Based on dozens of interviews, the report found that agencies can improve by using customer data and feedback more effectively, assigning senior leaders responsible for the customer experience and building a workforce that is prepared to serve customers well.

Using customer experience data and feedback to drive decisions and improve customer service has been a big challenge. Even though most agencies collect data and feedback through broad annual surveys, the information often is outdated by the time it reaches decision-makers, and sometimes fails to pinpoint the underlying cause of customer problems.

In addition, agency staff typically have a narrow view of customers because datasets from agency divisions and service delivery channels are not integrated or shared throughout the organization. For example, staff may have data about customers who called a contact center, but not know if those customers first checked the agency’s website, visited a field office or received services from another agency division—important information to understand the full customer experience.  

A number of agencies are addressing these issues.

The Office of Federal Student Aid in the Department of Education created a “customer listening process” to aggregate, analyze and share customer data across service channels and project teams. Representatives from each office meet monthly to discuss customer feedback and create a report for senior leaders identifying trends, problems and opportunities for collaboration. 

The Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies at the General Services Administration also aggregates customer data across all its services. The agency asks customers a common set of core questions to gauge satisfaction and uses the data to create a customer experience index. This enables leaders to compare programs and services, identify areas for improvement and track satisfaction consistently.

This approach should be implemented governmentwide; currently federal programs all ask different questions in their customer surveys, making it difficult to compare the customer experience across government and prioritize improvements where they are most needed.

In addition, some agencies have established a chief customer officer with responsibility to strengthen and coordinate the customer experience across agency programs and services. Nine of the 12 agencies reviewed for the report, however, did not have a senior leader responsible for customer experience.

Great customer service is central to the mission of many federal agencies and can change lives, from the millions of students who attend college with the help of federal financial aid to veterans needing immediate health care. If agencies are to help their customers, they must first understand them, and that understanding must be rooted in facts, not assumptions. 

Eric Keller is a senior research manager at the Partnership for Public Service.  Download the complete report, “Government for the People: The road to customer-centered services,” at http://ourpublicservice.org/publications/viewcontentdetails.php?id=934.

(Image via Jason Salmon/Shutterstock.com)

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.