The federal government is aiming at a moving target when it comes to improving customer experience. As many federal agencies make progress on delivering readily accessible, user-friendly services, the private sector continues to innovate and set expectations even higher.

Steps that not long ago were considered to be innovative in government, such as bringing more services online, are quickly becoming commonplace. Astute federal leaders are now looking for more advanced customer experience practices to keep pace with rising citizen expectations.

This issue brief is part of a multiyear initiative by the Partnership for Public Service and Accenture Federal Services to help improve customer experience in government. It highlights three promising customer experience practices for government, which are fairly well-established in the private sector. They include doing rigorous, in-depth customer research; connecting customer interactions across service-delivery channels; and using online virtual assistants to quickly answer citizen questions.

The importance of customer research

Customer satisfaction surveys are often times the only method of receiving feedback. They tend to only focus on one aspect of the overall agency experience with minimal regard to the reasoning behind the responses. The reason WHY someone responds is the most important part in evaluating how to improve user experience. You may even find that survey responses contradict real actions taken. At the Office of Federal Student Aid, creating a control group and personalizing messaging, they were able to automate their process and found several interesting findings.

A variety of tips and techniques have been used already across multiple agencies finding success in taking a deeper dive into the customer experience. Here are some of our lessons learned:

Use multiple approaches

Combining quantitative and qualitative data gives a more complete picture of your agency's perception with citizens.

Treat all evenhandedly

Establish a control group to test messaging and delivery tactics while ensuring they all receive the same information needed.

Automation helps

Take advantage of technology to reduce errors and increase segmentation capabilities.

Recruitment strategy

Human-centered design approaches rely heavily on people resources to gather data so be prepared and don’t be afraid to use grassroot tactics.

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"There is a gap between intention and action when it comes to observing customers. People may intend to do certain things in the future but might not actually take that action when the time comes."

— Jessica Barrett Simpson, Senior Advisor – Borrower Experience, Federal Student Aid

A closer look

Veterans Affairs launched an initiative to improve the lives of veterans. In order to do so, they took a strong look at the appeals process using the principles of human-centered design. While labor intensive, they found that throughout the stages of application process, each person had their own experience and opinions on the process. In the end, they received valuable feedback and have deployed a new process to drastically cut down on wait time and streamline the stages an appeal requires. Learn more here.

Connecting customer data across channels

Over the past decade, federal agencies have begun to explore innovative new avenues of interaction with their citizens. Email, SMS, online chat, social media and mobile apps are replacing direct office-based contact among employees, forcing agencies to rethink how to best disseminate their messages.

Many customer interaction channels have been developed in isolation creating siloed content approaches. With the multiple inconsistent messaging, customers quickly have become frustrated and disengaged with the agency. However, several agencies that embrace the value of connective research are rewriting the way information is gathered, stored and shared—implementing an omnichannel approach.

Agencies that launch an Omni-Channel strategy—the connected, consistent experience across brands, formats and devices, allowing companies to deliver on their revenue, cost and loyalty commitments—are better equipped to engage and adapt with its customers. Want to learn how to succeed creating an omni-channel strategy? We’ve got you covered with the 7 Ps To Succeed. Other key recommendations developed from our research are:

  • Organizational Alignment - Collaborate more easily and create a smooth experience across channels by establishing clear and consistent performance measures to ensure everyone is working towards common goals.
  • Share Content Across Multiple Sources - By creating an omnichannel strategy, you’ll look beyond your internal resources by treating your content as sharable data.
  • Adapt Content For The Channel - Rarely does the same content delivery work for all channels forcing agencies to understand the channels and their audiences to best communicate their message.

A closer look used to be organized by channels (website, contact centers, social media). Finding that much of the work was being duplicated on all channels creating confusion for its customers, management adopted an omnichannel approach. They unified content creation in one place and organized staff around specific functional areas (content, marketing, performance management, etc.) to create efficiencies. This narrowed the odds of inconsistency and enables staff to ensure content is consistent across all channels.

Using AI to meet citizens' needs

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and state-of-the-art digital applications are key to developing a network of system enhancements that will help government agencies connect more easily and efficiently with citizens. Seeing that citizens expect the same level of service they experience now with the private sector, government agencies have implemented a strategy to integrate technology into the customer experience. For a full report on how AI is changing the customer experience, download our report complete with your five steps for creating a sustainable, long-term strategy.

Key insights developed in this area include:

Align technology with your goals

Stay focused on your goals and how to accomplish them with technology, without letting technology dictate your decisions.

Customer outreach drives adoption

Make sure your customers know your customer assistant tool exists so they can utilize it.

Keep a connection to a live agent

Technology can answer most of the common questions, be prepared to switch to a human being when necessary to keep a positive customer experience.

Be ready to adapt

As AI technologies evolve, be prepared to change with them to make systems and contracts flexible enough to incorporate them.

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A closer look

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services introduced one of the federal government's first virtual assistants, distilling information from the agency website and contact centers into a single knowledge base. This method assists customers in getting quick and accurate answers without having to go on an extended data search.


The Partnership for Public Service is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that works to revitalize the federal government by inspiring a new generation to serve and by transforming the way government works. The Partnership teams up with federal agencies and other stakeholders to make our government more effective and efficient.

The Partnership for Public Service and Accenture Federal Services are engaged in a multi-year effort to explore how government can meet the daunting challenge of improving the customer experience. Our 2017 report, "Government for the People: The road to customer-centered services," acknowledges that federal agencies have strengthened customer service, but highlights four priority challenges for true citizen-first services that they can address. We also revealed our insights in The Most Important Customer that a simplified customer experience that speeds how citizens get government services is advancing missions and achieving goals.

Kathy Conrad

Director – Accenture Federal Services, Digital Government

Chris Zinner

Managing Director – Accenture Federal Services, Digital & Customer Experience

David Nation

Senior Manager – Customer Service Transformation, Accenture Federal Services


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