The vision document for the President’s Management Agenda (PMA), which the White House released last week, has three priorities: employee experience, customer experience (CX), and managing the business of government. In this blog post, I’ll offer some thoughts and advice on the CX priority. To do that, I’ll separate the priority into its main parts:
The PMA’s vision for federal CX — “excellent, equitable, and secure” — is strong and clear. That puts the federal government ahead of the many private-sector companies that don’t define clear CX goals. Of course, the OMB and the federal high-impact service providers (HISPs) to which the CX priority applies will have to flesh out this vision with more actionable guidance. No doubt these details will emerge in the rest of the PMA documents and HISPs’ own strategies during the coming months. Ideally, this information will help every federal employee operationalize the vision for themselves.
The first of three strategies the PMA introduces to help achieve the CX vision is: “Improve the service design, digital products, and customer experience management of Federal [HISPs] by reducing customer burden, addressing inequities, and streamlining processes.”
I’m glad to see service design listed right up front, since great design methods are essential for creating great CX. Federal agencies should consider service design part of the Biden administration’s push for “evidence-based policymaking,” since service design consists of proven techniques and requires strong customer research.
The emphasis on CX management is also good news. Providing great CX reliably and efficiently takes far more than the hard work of CX teams — it takes an organizationwide effort to put customers at the center of leadership, strategy, and operations. Forrester calls this customer obsession, and it requires organizations and their leaders to master key activities and set aside outdated but common practices.
Reducing burden and streamlining are obviously good ideas, too. However, the PMA misses this opportunity to also call for more emotionally positive federal CX. Years of data from Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) shows that the emotional quality of a customer experience is even more important than its ease. What’s more, an easy, effective CX isn’t necessarily emotionally positive. Hopefully this strategy’s mention of addressing inequities will help HISPs remember the importance of emotion in CX, since inequality is tied to emotions.
The second strategy is to “Design, build, and manage Government service delivery for key life experiences that cut across Federal agencies.” It’s good to see the life events model featured here, since major life events are the times when people need top-notch federal CX the most.
Achieving big gains in cross-agency CX will require a more active role for the OMB than has been the case. That’s why Forrester has advocated for a federal chief customer officer (CCO), such as the one proposed in the Trust in Public Service Act that was introduced in Congress earlier this year.
With or without a federal CCO, the OMB should consider making customer journeys the key organizing principle for federal CX work. This will help ensure that federal agencies prioritize the entire cross-agency experience in their own CX efforts, rather than making changes that seem good from an agency’s individual perspective but inadvertently harm the overall experience.
The third strategy is to “Identify and prioritize the development of Federal shared products, services, and standards that enable simple, seamless, and secure customer experiences across [HISPs].” The Biden administration’s executive order mandating a Zero Trust cybersecurity strategy is a strong step toward ensuring that federal CX is secure. However, customers behave based on their perceptions of security, not on the quality of security itself. That’s why federal agencies need to ensure that their CX provides customers with ample visual evidence of security, too.
This strategy will also “integrate customer experience measures … into the Government’s accountability and performance system.” That’s certainly important. The OMB’s CX measurement guidance in OMB Circular A-11, Section 280 has improved federal CX measurement. However, two serious problems remain: First, federal agencies need better measurement architectures to connect the dots between CX quality and mission performance. Second, the quality of some HISPs’ customer feedback collection efforts remain weak, which throws into doubt the accuracy and usefulness of their data.