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Citizen service is a marathon, not a sprint

Feds are off and running on better customer experiences, but hurdles remain.

The federal government may not come to mind first when thinking about personalized customer service. But a new report reveals that there exciting opportunities for improvement, and more agencies are developing innovative ways to put citizens first.

Momentum on a long road
A recently published report by the Partnership for Public Service and Accenture Federal Services reveals that leading agencies are making progress in customer centricity. This is exciting because strong customer experiences ensure that citizens get the vital federal services they need.

While there is work to be done, several federal initiatives highlight the benefits of making the customer experience the force behind service design and delivery. These agencies have addressed four challenges to delivering personalized citizen services:

  1. Become data driven
    Federal agencies have access to a mountain of customer experience data. Nineteen of 26 study respondents said they track the right information to understand customers’ needs.

    Yet the study indicates that federal agencies face data roadblocks. Data is often incomplete, outdated or isolated across silos. Culling through it for useful insights can be difficult without analytics and the right tools. Legal and budgetary restrictions make it hard to analyze data thoroughly. Agencies that collect feedback on specific transactions, integrate data across divisions and use data to establish service quality measures can transform the customer experience.

  2. Lead with a strategy
    A holistic focus on the customer experience is part of the DNA of customer-first federal agencies. Yet five of the 12 agencies interviewed lacked a detailed, up-to-date customer experience plan or strategy. Nine lacked a senior leader with responsibility for the customer experience organization-wide.

    Winners in personalized customer service go beyond piecemeal approaches. They have a comprehensive strategy backed by data insight, and make it publically available. Many have established an organization-wide customer experience office led by a senior official and make leaders across the organization accountable for customer experience excellence.

  3. Communicate with customers
    Federal agencies cannot deliver personalized citizen service in a vacuum. Constant communication with customers is essential for service relevancy.

    Successful agencies engage citizens early in the design of new services. As one federal leader explains, “We talk to customers about three times before we put anything out.” She continues, “We start the design process with the customer at the table.” Agencies must determine the most effective ways to solicit customer feedback—social media provides an effective channel. Communicating in plain language is essential to building strong customer connections and eliminating frustration.

  4. Build the workforce
    As federal agencies prioritize personalized customer service, they must ensure that the workforce is fully prepared to deliver it.

    This is about hiring, training and preparing the right front-line staff. It also means infusing a customer-first ethos into every facet of the agency, even among those who do not interface directly with the public. Job descriptions need to be updated and senior executive candidates must have passion for customer experience excellence. Performance plans and metrics must align with the vision.

READ THE FULL REPORT

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