How Can Federal Agencies Improve the Customer Experience?

April 9, 2019 Eva Thurston

What do constituents want? The question is asked every day by government agencies at all levels. On one hand, the answer has remained constant over the years: they want their requests handled quickly and effectively. On the other hand, customer service itself has undergone a complete revolution in the past decade—and it continues to evolve year after year.

There’s ample evidence of the increasing sophistication with which businesses serve their customers, raising expectations across the board. Today’s businesses deploy everything from digital assistants and online chatbots, providing instant responses, and individuals are beginning to expect the same level of service from government.

At the same time, federal agencies are bringing a new focus to customer satisfaction. Individual agencies, such as Social Security, have incorporated goals into their agency planning: “a superior customer experience” is one of the three main goals of their Vision 2025 plan. The level of customer experience SSA envisions in 2025 includes a focus “on our customer's experience over their lifetime…. To create a superior customer experience in 2025, we provide customer choice, personalized service, customer-centric technology, accurate information, and secure systems.”

In addition to individual agency plans, government-wide initiatives like the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) as shown on Performance.gov have set Improving Customer Experience with Federal Services as part of a long-term vision for modernizing federal government agencies. Their guidelines aspire to “improv[e] the experience citizens and businesses have with Federal services whether online, in-person, or via phone; and leverage technology to break down barriers and increase communication between Federal agencies and the citizens they serve.”

Plans to improve customer satisfaction wouldn’t be so widespread if customers were already generally satisfied. In 2015, customer satisfaction with federal government services was at an all-time low. After two consecutive years of improvement, the most recent study from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) indicates another drop in satisfaction, and this year’s survey was completed before the record-breaking 34-day shutdown during which many customer-facing services were curtailed or cut off completely.

What does this all mean for your agency? Increased scrutiny on customer satisfaction can feel like yet another source of pressure as you work hard to improve operations. But along with more scrutiny, there are more tools, more opportunities, and more technology that can help you along the journey.

Working with a partner like Conduent can help you make changes that have a positive ripple effect that leads to improved customer satisfaction. Even internal service improvements like better Human Resources tools can, by improving employee satisfaction and retention, help contribute toward customer satisfaction goals.

For more findings from the Citizen Experience survey and some ideas for next steps, take a look at this video.

About the Author

Eva Thurston is VP, General Manager – Federal, Conduent Government Solutions

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