Service Call: Overhauling the Federal Customer Experience [March 10, 2015]

Submitted on
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
,
Government Executive

By Camille Tuutti

The White House wants to overhaul the federal customer experience, but it won't be easy.

Let’s be honest: The federal government isn’t exactly known for its five-star customer experience. Whether applying for student loans or Social Security benefits, paying taxes or seeking health care information, Americans have a multitude of complaints about the difficulty of interacting with federal agencies. Even President Obama took notice and directed agencies in April 2011 to improve the way they serve citizens.

The push to plug the weak spots in federal customer experience gained momentum in 2014 with the launch of two new organizations—18F, a General Services Administration office created to help agencies improve online operations, and the U.S. Digital Service, a White House office that aims to untangle gnarly technology projects and make them successful. Illustrating the importance of customer experience—or CX in techspeak—USDS highlighted the issue in its Digital Services Playbook.

Despite these efforts, federal CX has been a bit of a bust.

POCKETS OF HOPE

A November 2014 study by Forrester Research went as far as calling federal customer service “disastrously weak.” The CX Index, which measures how customers perceive their interactions with organizations in terms of the ease, effectiveness and emotion of an experience, found that agencies earned an average ranking of “very poor.” Even more troubling for the government is that even the highest-rated agency still scored lower than the worst private sector organization Forrester examined. “Compared with dozens of auto, banking, retail and e-tail companies we also ranked, federal CX looks downright bleak,” wrote the report’s author, Rick Parrish.

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