Fundamental Customer Experience (CX) Fixes Can Rebuild Citizen Trust

Federal agencies can optimize the experiences they provide to the public by focusing on customer experience (CX).

For decades, trust in the U.S. government has been in a slow, steady decline. Today, citizen trust hovers below 25 percent, according to a recent Pew Research study. Of course, there isn’t just one factor responsible for this decline—trust in politicians, the health of the economy, and even routine interactions citizens have with government programs all contribute to this overall trust metric.

Less-than-optimal experiences with government agencies can frustrate citizens and damage the relationship between government organizations and the stakeholders who matter most—their constituents.

When the myriad interactions people have with the government come together well, they are considered ‘orchestrated,’ which is a common CX term. Poor experiences with government agencies are a result of orchestration challenges. Luckily, there are orchestration solutions that can help government agencies optimize the experiences they provide to constituents, which will contribute to rebuilding trust in their institutions.

Often, the delivery of a government service spans multiple agencies, or multiple functions within an agency, which all have disparate budgets, goals, and objectives. Unlike in private sector experience orchestration, it’s close to impossible to have a single person manage all the elements of delivering a total experience in the government sector. So, it is important to assemble a team of leaders from different groups and departments, who can play together, from the same songbook, to truly orchestrate a smooth and pleasant experience for citizens.

The leader of the team would be someone who ‘horizontally’ studies and is accountable for the experience day-to-day, from end-to-end. Assign responsibilities to others on the CX team, such as a person who measures lead time — somebody who is looking every day and saying, for example, “We have this many people in our pipeline who need a social security replacement card and they are stuck here, here, here, and here.” This person generates new analytics (the people stuck in the pipeline, and where) and begins to have influence on the organization’s CX improvement initiative.

Those kinds of individuals and roles can be very successful in enhancing the citizen experience. Other commercial industries — retail, banking, healthcare — have increasingly designated people who wake up every day and think about looking “horizontally” across various agencies and constituent touchpoints and people who gather and feed insights into the understanding of the current state of CX. Together, these teams identify opportunities for reducing friction, and increasing satisfaction, for their constituents.  

The uniqueness of the public sector environment, with varying priorities between agency and citizen, is also a challenge to overcome when improving CX in the government sector. Take the example from our Social Security Administration Safari, a webinar where we walked through the citizen experience of replacing a social security card. There’s only one place a citizen can go to conduct that transaction: the Social Security Administration (SSA). The number-one priority of the SSA is that social security cards are only provided to the appropriate citizen and that person’s identity is protected. If you’re an SSA administrator, security might be your number-one consideration. Whereas, for the citizen experience, security may be the second or third most important priority.

In highly regulated environments, where security and protection are at the forefront, how do you have conversations about citizen experience and weight their priorities against security? Voice of Customer (VoC) research can help understand priorities and help align, and meet, the needs of both parties involved in the transaction. 

Complicated, traditional ways of providing customer service may be perceived as expensive to “break down” and rebuild. However, more often than not, when experiences are simplified, CX is enhanced, and, in the end, through reduction of problem-solving and troubleshooting with customers, costs drop, which ultimately saves the taxpayer money. The added benefit is, by simplifying experience delivery, government employee satisfaction increases as well, which only further enhances the experience they provide to their constituents. 

Organizations that are motivated and learn how to provide experiences more simply — and cheaper and faster (in a secure way) —free up investment to put toward other CX initiatives. One of the things that we go through with organizations struggling with how to invest resources is to help them establish a ‘north star’ (the definition of their ultimate CX) and a vision that says a simpler experience is going to be a less costly experience, many times a lot less costly. The cost savings can be funneled into better security measures or going after fraud—for example.

We saw this with online banking 15 years ago, which faced similar simplification challenges. Banks wanted to be able to move online—which would save them money and be more convenient for customers. Their investment to move in that direction ended up delivering both outcomes. Banks that were the most successful involved their security departments in the design of the process and the customers’ digital experience, which integrated both the banks’ and the customers’ needs. 

Government agencies must also remember to humanize the experience they provide to constituents. This starts with the end-to-end “view” of the experience, mentioned earlier. A strategy to humanize the CX includes figuring out what part of that experience should be digitized, where it benefits both the agency and the citizen, and where the citizen really needs a human touch. At the same time, look at what touchpoints do not make sense to digitize, and free up human capital to help with these instances. These touchpoints with a citizen should be mapped out across the citizen journey, to chart the course of a better CX by orchestrating them.

CX challenges and solutions are hot topics in the government sector today, as it increasingly seeks to take steps toward orchestrating better experiences for citizens. While trust in institutions will continue to be under pressure, by forces that may not always be controllable, it’s good to know how to take control of what’s within your own hands – the experience you can offer to others.

Aaron Mosby is VP of public sector experience at TTEC Digital, the global CX technology and services innovator. He works with goverment agencies on CX strategy and technology and operationalizing CX. He is an expert on the government’s current CX mandate.