Federal Agencies Must Treat Customer Experience As A Business Discipline

Rick Parrish

By now we all know that federal customer experience (CX) is disastrously weak and that improving it will boost both agency operations and the health of the political system.

We’ve also seen some pockets of hope popping up, as I predicted a few months ago. For instance: The Department of Education’s new portal is complete, the Department of Veterans Affairs My HealtheVet site now offers online tracking for mail-order prescriptions, and BusinessUSA.gov combines thousands of pieces of information from several federal agencies into a single site for entrepreneurs and business owners. Other improvements are still in the works, like 18F's upgrade of the Department of the Treasury's My Retirement Account website and the Office of Personnel Management Innovation Lab's redesign of USAJobs.gov.

These isolated projects are good, but not good enough. It’s time for federal agencies to get beyond one-off tech tasks and the find-and-fix mentality to truly institutionalize CX improvement throughout their organizations. And that means treating CX not as a sideshow, but as a real business discipline. To do this, agencies must systematically perform the practices associated with all six CX disciplines — strategy, customer understanding, design, measurement, governance, and culture. Right now, federal agencies are failing in all of these areas.

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How To Measure The Customer Impact Of CX Projects — And Get Them Funded

Sam Stern

No one disputes that treating customers well is the right thing to do: Virtually all respondents in a Forrester survey of CX professionals said that executives at their companies consider customer impact to be at least somewhat important when making business decisions. But compared with hard return on investment (ROI) numbers in business cases for other initiatives, CX projects won't get needed funding if their estimated returns are limited to benefits like improved satisfaction or higher Net Promoter Score (NPS).

In my latest report, "How To Measure The Impact Of CX Projects — And Get Them Funded," I describe a four-step process companies should adopt to govern CX improvement initiatives and help ensure their projects can win funding.

  • Step 1: Prioritize customer experience improvement opportunities. Most companies are spoiled for choice when it comes to finding parts of the experience to improve. But all that choice can be debilitating when trying to decide how to best allocate scarce resources and small budgets. Core customer experience activities like collecting insights from customers and employees and mapping customer journeys are valuable in this step to help companies identify the improvement projects that will have the greatest CX impact.
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How Governments Can Improve Everyone’s Customer Experience

Rick Parrish

I spend a lot of time talking about the poor quality of federal customer experience (CX) and the effects it has on the public. I’ve already talked about how federal agencies averaged the lowest score in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index™). In fact, most of the worst performers in any industry were federal agencies and even the top agencies — the US Postal Service and National Park Service, which tied for the top spot — achieved scores far below private-sector leaders like USAA, Amazon, and JetBlue.

However, today I want to emphasize the national harm of bad private-sector CX. US consumers have hundreds of millions of frustrating interactions with companies every day, and that adds up to:

  • Degraded quality of life. About 50% of US households reported bad experiences, and 68% suffered customer rage in 2013, according to this study.
  • A weakened economy. Waiting for in-home services such as cable, TV, or appliance installation and repairs takes each US consumer out of the workforce for two days each year, costing $250 per person and the entire economy as much as $37.7 billion annually, according to another study.
  • Stymied business innovation. Poor CX also saps budgets that companies could otherwise use for research and development, capital investments, or other imperatives. And CX improvements translate into big bucks. Sprint saved $1.7 billion per year by avoiding problems that had prompted high traffic to its call centers.
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We Have Metrics — Now What?

Daniel Brousseau

Convergences are cool when they happen, and for the past two months, I’ve been experiencing one around customer experience measurement. Today, I was on the phone with a massive government agency talking about the way it measures customer experience and why it’s not working. Next week, I’ll have another discussion with a major communications company about rebuilding its customer experience (CX) measurement system from brownfield and will also meet with a leader from a major software company on overhauling customer experience measurement globally. Two weeks ago, I met with the head of digital at a top-five bank about rethinking how to measure the digital customer experience.   

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Federal Agencies Must Focus On Emotion To Create Great Government Customer Experiences

Rick Parrish

Think about the last time you went through airport security. Or applied for federal benefits. Or paid your taxes.

How did those experiences make you feel? What specific emotions did they invoke in you? Did you feel comforted, hopeful, and valued — or insulted, frustrated, and nervous?

Questions like these are the most important things for federal customer experience (CX) professionals to ask themselves, and our CX Index™ proves it. As my colleague Megan Burns writes in her new CX Index report, “Emotion is the biggest lever you have to pull” to improve CX. In fact, organizations at the top of the CX Index elicited positive emotions about 20 times as often as orgs at the bottom of the Index.

Every customer experience has three dimensions, called the “three E's” of CX: effectiveness, ease, and emotion. Our research shows that the emotions a customer experience elicits influence the quality of the experience more than ease and effectiveness in practically every industry — including government.

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How To Be A Great Client: Tales From Both Sides Of The Fence

Allegra Burnette

I’ve had the chance over the years to see both sides of the client/design agency relationship. I began my career at Ralph Appelbaum Associates, a world-renowned museum exhibition planning and design firm, working with clients like the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of African American History in Detroit. What I loved about those projects was getting to work with multiple teams on a variety of projects with different subject matters. When you’ve spent the afternoon listening to famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson wax poetic about the planets as you prepare exhibits for the Rose Center for Earth and Space, you realize life can be pretty good.

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How To Beat The Top Five Excuses For Not Improving Your Government Agency's Customer Experience

Rick Parrish

Naysayers love to complain that real customer experience (CX) improvement is only for the private sector because government is subject to unique and insurmountable pressures. Don’t believe these cynics. Many major corporations must overcome the same hurdles, and some federal agencies are finding ways to break out, too. Use this list of comebacks to subdue government CX skeptics the next time they start raving about:

  • Entrenched organizations. Even the most stagnant agency can change. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is taking a wrecking ball to its ossified structure with a major CX pivot that includes an overhauled organization; revised policies and procedures; and personnel changes that include the appointment of a chief customer officer. Private sector companies in perennially paralyzed industries like airlines are also breaking free. Delta Air Lines has soared in our CX Index thanks to major innovations to its policies, procedures, technical capabilities, and training.
  • Complex regulations. Healthcare companies groan under the weight of federal and state regulations, yet some companies in this industry find new ways to provide outstanding CX while working within the system. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan shot up more than 20 points in our CX Index last year by simplifying technical terminology and making interactions clearer for customers. Despite being hamstrung by outmoded regulations and congressional meddling, the US Postal Service just tied for first among the 18 federal agencies on our CX Index.
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What's In A Name? Between CX and UX, A Lot

Leah Buley

The Folly Of A UX Youth

Several years ago, when I was writing my book, The User Experience Team of One, I tucked the following footnote into an early draft:

"An alphabet soup of acronyms have been adopted as shorthand for user experience. Which one you use depends largely on what term your organization or local professional community has adopted to talk about user experience. Though they vary quite a bit, all tend to be variations on the theme of “experience.” Among them: UX (user experience), XD (experience design), UE (user experience, again), CX (customer experience), and CE (customer experience, again). Though the acronyms differ, they all pretty much refer to the same thing."

I then sent my manuscript to a handful of colleagues who had kindly volunteered to proof it. One keen reviewer spotted my footnote and immediately called me out on it. He wrote:

"I think it’s an oversimplification to say that UX and CX ‘pretty much refer to the same thing.’ Particularly in the current environment where UX is growing up and the worlds of UX and CX are starting to collide. Anyone who knows the difference between the two may find the statement a bit too much of a ‘dumbing down’ of an important distinction and set a wrong tone. I think it’s worth just making clearer that there is a distinction, although they are both essentially centered around the users and their experiences."

 

Oh, Yeah, They're Different

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The Top Four Reasons To Improve The Federal Customer Experience

Rick Parrish

Mandates for better federal customer experience (CX) have been piling up for more than 20 years. The trend began way back in 1993, when Executive Order No. 12862 required federal agencies to create basic CX standards. The strongest and most recent mandate is last year’s “customer service” cross-agency priority goal, which requires federal agencies to provide the public with experiences “comparable to [those] they receive from leading private sector organizations.”

That’s a tall order, especially since federal CX is so bad. Despite these two decades of mandates, federal agencies earned an average rank of “very poor” on Forrester’s CX Index™ — the lowest ranking of all of the industries we rated. Even the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the highest-rated federal agency, was still among the very-lowest-ranked organizations in any industry.

But why does that matter? After all, government agencies usually have no competitors, so there’s no pressure to get and keep customers. The basic market motivation just isn’t there.

My research has revealed a host of reasons why federal agencies must improve their CX, despite not having to worry about market factors. Here are the top four reasons I’ve uncovered:

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What's New With Customer Feedback Management (CFM) Vendors: A CX Pro's Guide To The Evolved CFM Vendor Landscape

Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian

Forrester published a new report with highlights of changes among customer feedback management (CFM) vendors to give you the crucial insights you need to understand your CFM options. Why? Since the 2014 reports on the VoC vendor landscape and VoC vendor go-to-market strategies, we saw some big changes in the CFM market. Many changes are good news for CX pros who are looking to support their enterprisewide VoC and CX measurement efforts. But they don't make navigating this market any easier. 

 

Key changes in the CFM market include:

  • Consolidation of established CFM vendors. CFM vendor Mindshare acquired Empathica in September 2013 and then relaunched the newly combined company in June 2014 under the name InMoment. Maritz Holdings acquired Allegiance and merged it with Maritz Research to launch MaritzCX in January 2015.

  • Entry of new CFM vendors. Clarabridge, formerly a specialist vendor that focused on text analytics, moved into the CFM category by adding significant capabilities to support all stages of the VoC cycle through a combination of an acquisition and native development. Qualtrics, formerly a survey platform specialist, entered the CFM category by adding capabilities to interpret unstructured feedback and act on VoC.

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