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OMB Update Makes Customer Experience Mission Critical for Federal Government

OMB Update Makes Customer Experience Mission Critical for Federal Government

Earlier this month, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released its annual budget guidance for all federal agencies and made significant changes to the section on customer experience, redefining what that means to federal agencies and how they have to measure it.

The updates to Circular A-11 guidance and Section 280 expand the direction to all federal agencies and mandate high-impact service providers follow new guidelines for developing a trust score to measure customer experience based on survey and signal data in “as real-time as possible.” The updates build on the initiatives first introduced in Section 280 two years ago and will carry beyond the 2020 election, since the budget cycle starting now is for 2022. 

“Customer experience is being prioritized for the long haul as a critical business function at the highest levels of our government and that is great news for all citizens, employees and agencies,” said Lee Becker, Medallia’s solutions principal focused on the public sector. He previously helped lead the federal government’s first customer experience office at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and helped draft Section 280 while a founding member of the OMB Customer Experience Cross-Agency Priority (CX CAP) Goal Team. “This builds on what we started and expands the direction for all agencies. It places a premium on real-time feedback that can improve the experience for all citizens and employees interacting with the government.”

Let’s take a look at the changes and what they mean for federal agencies.

Building Trust in Real Time

The OMB is now requiring federal agencies to develop an overall trust score based on survey and signal data collected “in as real-time as possible” that can be viewed via customer experience dashboards. 

This has the potential to not only give customers a better outlet for their voices to be heard, but for agencies and departments to focus on issues that are most impactful and pressing — compared to reacting to survey data that is over six months to even a year old. The guidance streamlines the survey development and collection process by allowing agencies to submit new shorter surveys under OMB A-11 Section 280 and the Public Records Act (PRA) clearance process. Templates are even provided on the CX MAX Community page for both the surveys and dashboards.

We’ve seen agencies leading the charge in measuring trust and democratizing insights pulled from experience data. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs’ (VA) is a great example. They’ve recently advanced their capabilities to listen, learn and understand, and act on Veterans’ feedback in real-time and are now seeing significant impact in their ability to improve customer experience. This has proven to be an especially critical enabler for meeting the needs of Veterans during the pandemic. 

Through these efforts, the VA has seen “Trust” scores amongst Veterans increase from 55% to 80% and VA healthcare trust is now at 90% over the past four years. The VA’s incredible gains align well to OMB’s goal of developing a government-standard customer experience metric around trust that can drive outcomes that matter most to agencies and their customers. 

Defining the Customer

In the release, the OMB also further defined “customer” and “service delivery” within the federal government. Now, customers include individuals, businesses and organizations that interact with a government agency or program, “either directly or via a federal contractor or even a federally-funded program.” Even more impactful is that customers also include federal employees, meaning employee experience should now become a more prominent journey  within the government.

This is similar to the trend we’re seeing in the private sector, where the mantra has become happy employees result in happy customers. Further illustrating that, as the VA was making those significant gains in Trust scores, their employee experience was also improving. In 2018, they moved up 11 spots to rank sixth in the best places to work among the largest federal agencies.

Experience Management Takes Center Stage for Government

The ability for the government to now measure and view insights from both employee and customer experience data side by side can provide a much more holistic and deeper understanding of what the real issues are, why and what to do about them. 

And given the critical nature of government services, the current pandemic has only accelerated this movement toward a focus on trust — which has correlations to operational and performance improvement. 

All in all, the A-11 Section 280 demonstrates the requirement for a continued focus by the OMB for federal agencies to prioritize customer experience as a critical business capability in ensuring accountability to the customers it serves, rebuilding trust and delivering on their mission to the American people.

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