How A Chief Customer Experience Officer Could Transform Government

Improving the public’s experience with government just makes sense.

Twenty years ago, a Chief Customer Experience Officer was rare, unheard-of and easily dismissed. Now the position is indispensable. With breakthroughs in technology and increasing digitalization of services, a CCXO has become a key component in organizations interested in successfully managing citizen experiences. Yet most government agencies do not have someone focused on making it easier for taxpayers to access the information and services they need. To catch up, government agencies and departments should hire CCXOs and empower them to work with other chief executives to create better digital experiences for citizens.

Private Sector Lessons

In the private sector, a CCXO designs experiences that customers have with the company or brand. While their responsibilities may vary from one organization to the next, the vision remains the same: successful CCXOs align the leadership across a company on customer values, priorities and goals. They serve as the voice of the customer and as agents of change who work across departments to prioritize initiatives that reduce any pain points the customers encounter.  

CXOs across the sports, tech, healthcare and music industries lead interdepartmental collaboration to understand and shape a full ecosystem of digital experiences by streamlining operations and leading strategy for every customer touchpoint and interaction, from marketing and advertising to operations, packaging, product development, usability, reliability and mobile applications. Customer experience is about coordinating multiple channels to present a unified experience for customers.

The CCXO position has come a long way since the Harvard Business Review dubbed customer experiences a company’s first concern and called for simple, integrated solutions that prioritized customers. In fact, according to MGM Resorts CCXO Lilian Tomovich, “There’s no company on the face of the planet that shouldn’t be intimately trying to understand the guest journey and customers’ pain points and how they can make it better.”

The same is true for government.

CCXOs have become critical in the private sector because they drive long-term revenue growth and impact the bottom line. The adoption of the role in the public sector, on the other hand, has been much slower as many government leaders refrain from viewing citizens as their customers. For the public sector to provide the types of services that citizens desire, agencies need to make citizen experiences a priority.

A CCXO in the Public Sector

By all measures, the public sector still provides an experience that is lower than any they have in the private sector. The public deserves experiences that makes their lives simpler. That’s why each federal department and agency with a citizen-facing mission should have a CCXO in place.

When interacting with the government, the public should be able to move from channel to channel, just as they do when interacting with the private sector. A CCXO would ensure that the entire journey, from beginning to end, meets these expectations. A recent study from Forrester Research showed that of more than 325 federal mobile apps deployed, only 5 percent of customers actually used them and almost 60 percent of federal customers would rather pick up the phone than deal with government websites. The issue here isn’t digital. It’s disparate customer experiences that fail to meet citizen expectations. A CCXO can close this gap by understanding the customers or citizens they serve and breaking down silos within the department or agency to create seamless digital experiences that improve the entire customer journey.

Some government agencies have taken steps to reshape customer experiences. In 2010, Brenda Wensil assumed the first-ever customer experience role in the federal government at the Education Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid. Since then, other agencies have followed suit. Tom Allin became the first Chief Veteran Experience Officer at the Veterans Affairs Department, a post now held by Dr. Lynda Davis. The Office of Personnel Management established a CXO role in 2015, and Michelle Bartram now leads customer experience efforts at the Census Bureau.

Without someone filling these roles, the government spends millions of dollars building websites, creating call centers and developing mobile apps without fully understanding what’s important to the public. Agency websites have content that’s duplicative and sometimes not accessible by the disabled or written in plain language. Due to the poor experience, citizens sometimes go without services. CCXOs bridge this gap by working across departments to ensure that the people, processes and technologies are used to meet citizen needs.

Improving the public’s experience with government makes sense. It provides benefits to the public, the government and industry. With citizens demanding more digital services and better user experiences, the government cannot afford to ignore the critical role that CCXOs could play at every department and agency if they are committed to ushering in a new era of digital experiences.

Martha Dorris is the Founder and CEO of Dorris Consulting International. She previously served as the Director of Strategic Programs at The General Services Administration's Office of Integrated Technology Services and Deputy Associate Administrator at GSA’s Office of Citizen Services.