Customer experience (CX) is a pressing issue for federal managers in the postpandemic world. Institutionalizing CX and leveraging data better can help managers overcome challenges and achieve mission impact.
Customer experience (CX) is not a new concept in government. Federal managers have constantly faced the complex challenge of managing fast-paced technological change, evolving regulatory pressures, workforce challenges, and heightened public expectations, all while improving the customer experience. The COVID-19 crisis has posed new challenges in this area as citizen interactions with the government get dramatically reimagined. Federal government customers—individuals, other public entities, and businesses—are now availing government services through new channels to comply with COVID-19 social distancing norms.
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We surveyed US federal government managers to understand how government agencies are approaching CX and what steps are being taken to improve it. (See sidebar, “About the survey” to learn more.)
Federal managers believe CX offers multiple dimensions of value. Complying with federal mandates, such as from the Office of Management and Budget, continues to be the top reason (81% of survey respondents) for improving CX at federal agencies. However, about 76% of respondents also think improving CX is very or extremely important for increasing public trust. Improving citizen engagement, customer satisfaction, and employee productivity are survey respondents’ other top drivers of CX in the federal government. These responses indicate that managers have started to think about CX as a tool that goes beyond compliance to build broader trust and increase productivity.
About 70% of surveyed federal managers feel that their organization’s customer service is equal in quality to what citizens might expect from the private sector.
However, customers—the actual consumers of the service—seem to think differently. According to a consumer survey, the federal government lags its private sector counterparts in customer satisfaction. This shows a large gap in the perception of customer service quality between those offering and those availing the service. Closing this gap could be critical for the federal government in the future.
Federal managers cited budget constraints, outdated systems and technology, and cultural resistance to change as the biggest challenges to improving CX in the federal government. Misaligned employee incentives and lack of leadership buy-in were other prominent challenges cited by respondents.
While funding is always constrained, cultural resistance could also indicate a lack of awareness regarding the significant opportunities to transform services by embracing a CX mindset. Private sector CX success stories can help federal managers showcase the potential value of CX to their organization, though this will likely require significant support from leaders.
Not all federal agencies may be considering CX as a strategic lever to drive meaningful change. While 58% of federal managers indicate that their agency incorporates CX in decision-making, only 51% of respondents say their agency’s overall strategy has a CX component. Similarly, only 48% say their agency has a dedicated CX office or leader.
Although the current numbers are low, the growing emergence of a CX leadership role in the public sector is an encouraging sign. Active management of CX can bring transparency and accountability around agency CX plans, pushing agencies to make measurable progress in achieving their CX goals.
Better data analytics can guide federal agencies on their CX journey, but very few agencies collect and analyze customer data. Only 54% of federal managers surveyed said their agency consistently collects customer feedback data, and about the same percentage said they conduct ongoing research about their customers. Moreover, only 57% of respondents indicated that customer feedback is analyzed, and only 46% publicly share customer feedback analysis.
These results indicate that collecting and analyzing data, and then turning those insights into action are still a work in progress for the government. Agencies should ramp up their data collection and analytics capabilities to understand customer needs and challenges better. Building mechanisms that allow insights to shape service delivery could take CX even further.
To gain insights around the focus and awareness of CX in the federal government, Deloitte surveyed about 156 government leaders from 25 federal agencies between June 22 and July 20, 2020. The respondents comprised federal managers at the GS/GM 11–15 level and senior executives across government agencies, excluding defense agencies.