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Now There’s an IDEA – Customer Experience and the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA)

Medallia: Customer Experience

On December 20th, President Trump signed into law the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act, otherwise known as the IDEA Act. The bill, spearheaded by Rep. Ro Khanna, is aimed at transforming critical government services that have been historically cumbersome and expensive into modernized, cost-effective experiences. The legislation outlines a series of new requirements for agencies centered around technology, ranging from improved security and accessibility to more sweeping regulations regarding the digitization of public-facing services and paper-based forms.

Now, IDEA is not a silver bullet solution. For example, the legislation doesn’t allocate funding to support the changes, it doesn’t have true enforcement measures within and doesn’t address the unintended consequences presented by the longstanding Paperwork Reduction Act with regards to collecting customer feedback. That said, the passage of IDEA demonstrates the continued momentum towards a modernized government and is a major stepping stone to improved customer experience (CX) across government. The easy headline of IDEA is “improved government websites”, but the bill’s lesser-referenced lines on how this will be achieved may be far more interesting. Here are three areas to take a closer look at.

1. CIO = Chief Customer Officer

Across many agencies, save for a notable few, there is no true owner for CX. Initiatives happen in pockets, often as a part of someone’s larger role, and more often devoid of funding. Meanwhile, similar efforts are being managed by teams elsewhere in the agency, hampered by organizational silos. IDEA strives to fix that by appointing the CIO as the steward of CX.

Per Section 6 of the bill, the CIO shall “coordinate and ensure alignment of the internal and external customer experience programs and strategy of the executive agency.” Furthermore, the CIO is required to work with senior leaders from the agency to ensure funding for CX initiatives. In the short term, this guidance can be expected to drive a more rapid and streamlined implementation of key CX efforts. Further out, these provisions are likely to lead to the formalization of more CX offices across agencies who will be close partners with the CIO offices. This change has the potential to provide an impact well beyond website compliance

2. Data-Driven Decision Making

Also within Section 6, IDEA calls for agencies to “identify areas of concern that need improvement and improve the delivery of customer service“ by “using qualitative and quantitative data obtained from across the executive agency relating to the experience and satisfaction of customers.” The message here is a clear one. We need to move away from the days of implementing changes based upon who shouts the loudest, has the most money or has the shiniest keys and instead shift reliance to data that supports the decisions (and investments) being made.

Implied here is the crucial need for the voice of the customer. Agencies need to develop methods for continually listening to and acting upon the concerns of their customers and not just a point-in-time exercise that takes months to produce and results in a mass-distributed scorecard that is glossed over by those same masses. Agencies who are already providing their customers an opportunity to consistently share their thoughts, like the Department of Veterans Affairs and the United States Postal Service, are already recognizing the benefits that such a data-driven approach can yield for ongoing improvements in the delivery of customer service.

3. Better Employee Experience Leads to Better Customer Experience

Within Section 3, a section largely dedicated to covering off on a list of requirements aimed at improving public facing websites, you will find this line: “The head of each executive agency shall ensure, to the greatest extent practicable, that any Intranet established after the date of enactment of this Act conforms to the requirements described in subsection (a).” This may be easy to overlook but it should not be and it was a brilliant inclusion.

The drafters of IDEA clearly recognize what is widely-accepted across the private sector – empowering employees with the right tools, processes and protocols not only improves their engagement but has a directly-correlated impact on the experiences of the customers they serve. By ensuring that internal websites adhere to the same standards as those for public-facing sites, agencies will enable their employees to actively participate in the CX continuum and deliver better service to the customers who rely every day upon the services they provide.

For more insights into the evolution of CX across government or to see a demonstration of how Medallia is helping to lead CX transformation in the public sector, please reach out to