To say that government underperforms in terms of CX is to state the obvious. Complaints about lines at the DMV, frustration when dealing with the IRS, and misperception of needs by federal insurers are all commonplace. Despite its mandate to serve the people, government is the bottom-performing industry when it comes to customer satisfaction in the US. The fact that this holds true in France, Germany, Canada, the UK, and Mexico is little consolation to anyone.
However, Senate passage of the Federal Agency Customer Experience (FACE) Act in July 2019 requires federal agencies to collect voluntary feedback regarding customer experience and service delivery. It also amends the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) to exempt the collection of voluntary feedback from PRA requirements. CX experts have been lobbying for this amendment since the well-meaning—but flawed—PRA came into effect. The House introduced an identical bill in May of 2019. That bill requires further action.
The FACE Act requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to coordinate with the General Services Administration to develop a set of standardized questions for agencies to use when collecting voluntary feedback. The goal is to address customer satisfaction with an interaction or service to determine whether the customer achieved their objective. The questions should also help assess whether the agency delivered the service in a timely, respectful, and professional manner. The Act also specifies that the voluntary nature of the feedback should be made crystal clear and that surveys should have a maximum of 10 questions. But perhaps most important, FACE mandates the collection of voluntary feedback across all platforms or channels agencies use to deliver information or services. That currently includes call centers, web, in-person, and app-based CX.
FACE requires agencies to submit an annual report to OMB and to publish it on their websites. The report should detail the results of voluntary feedback received, the total number of responses, and each survey’s response rate. It should include an aggregated statement on how agencies solicit feedback. Another provision is for the Government Accountability Office to create a scorecard report assessing the reported data and make it available to the House and Senate oversight committees.
Information relating to federal government employee job performance appraisals would be restricted.
While FACE indicates that the government is realizing the importance of customer experiences, in its current state, responses to the solicitation must remain anonymous. Not allowing customers to provide their information who are seeking help or resolve from an issue prevents agencies from being able to support in a greater capacity. This includes flagging and responding to critical issues like suicide and homelessness, individuals involved in natural disasters to non-critical but important needs, such as an issue with payroll or inability to book travel from a shared service provider. In addition to preventing agencies from closing the loop with customers – having feedback data that is anonymous makes it difficult to map a customer’s journey and in turn better understand how to fix their pain points. While collecting CX data is massively important to understand customer satisfaction, or lack thereof, the anonymous nature of the feedback will limit the actionable improvements agencies can make in real-time.
The fact that many government agencies deliver services through third parties makes it difficult to understand the CX of those dealing with the government. As a result, initiatives aimed at improving government CX are often misdirected. For example, virtual assistance centers that don’t actually improve the customer application process have been created, and resources to deal with high call volume have been implemented without an understanding of what caused the call volume spikes.
Given the limitations of government resources and its prime directive to transparently provide services to all, ensuring that CX investments will yield ROI is imperative.
Technology such as Medallia for government enables patients [VB1], agents, scientists, and administrators to capture real-time digital signals that provide insight into the customer journey. That, in turn, allows government agencies to act effectively, diagnose root causes of poor service issues quickly, and trigger appropriate actions and responses. The benefits to public health emergencies and disaster response are apparent [VB2]. At the same time, avoiding investment in the wrong technology is just as important for the government in an era when citizens demand transparency.
The FACE Act acknowledges the need to track and improve CX to improve government agency services, and its reporting requirements will ensure accountability and provide transparency. Most importantly, it recognizes the importance of tracking, evaluating, and responding appropriately throughout the entire user experience. With any luck, it will lead to continuous improvement in government CX as well as greater efficiencies.