Even the US Government is Jumping on the Customer Experience Train

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As we get ready for 2021, we have been diving in to the top customer experience trends we see on the horizon. So far, we have looked at why customer experience is more important even though  customer experience programs demonstrate how CX is still a mystery. Then, we helped you get serious about customer experience strategy for 2021. Today, we are examining an unexpected trend: US Government customer experience.

What does that mean for travel and hospitality, healthcare, retail, and everything in between?

The US Government is investing in Customer Experience. Does the fact that this customer experience trend made our 2021 customer experience trends list shock you? It shocked us.

Government is a Notorious Late Adopter

Typically, the government is the last to adopt new technologies, processes, and ways of doing things. One could say that the government is always late to the party. If a bureaucratic behemoth like the US Federal Government is adopting a human-centered approach to operations, what does that mean for the private sector?

What does it signal to those trendy organizations that make value-based claims, but lag behind in user experience, seamless design, and empathy-driven processes?

I will tell you what it means. It means the time is now to start that hospitality training or digital transformation program you pressed paused on during COVID.

Government Customer Experience in Action

In the summer, the New York State Insurance Fund (NYSIF) issued an Innovation Advisory Services RFP. In it, the agency was looking for an innovation advisor who “Demonstrated experience or expertise in assessing customer experience and recommending how to improve customer experience.”

NYSIF is one of the ten largest workers’ compensation carriers in the United States. It has approximately 155,000 policyholders. In other words, it is a big government agency. And in 2020, the year of COVID, this enormous, bureaucratic organization is talking about customer experience.

Let’s unpack this. First of all, NYSIF actually learned what customer experience means. Not only that, they are taking the next necessary step. They are actively looking to hire customer experience experts to improve customer experience for all their stakeholders.

Prioritizing Government Customer Experience

The US Federal Government (USG) goes one step further. The USG created a website about Customer Experience. And on the site, they make a clear commitment to results for the public. In fact, the government lists CX Cross-Agency as a strategic priority. And they set a public goal to “provide a modern, streamlined, and responsive customer experience across government, comparable to leading private-sector organizations.”

To achieve seamless agency experiences, the Federal Government is offering a ton of resources, support, and free internal consulting to the 25 agencies with the highest impact on the public. One of those agencies is the Internal Revenue Service. For those who do not know, the IRS is one of the most powerful US agencies. As they say, the only things you cannot avoid are death and taxes.

Another powerful agency on that list, that has not always been associated with customer-focused practices, is the Department of Homeland Security. DHS is the agency that manages the external border of the US.

Empathy in Government Customer Experience

So, it was no surprise that, in August 2019, the IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig stood in front of three thousand accountants in New Orleans and delivered a speech about his focus on customer experience. In the last year, the IRS was able to flex during COVID. They extended the window of time for tax return deadlines. Even though the IRS is not totally paperless, taxpayers can find any form they need on their website. And the turnaround time for refunds and payments is improving.

All of these are examples of customer experience improvements in an agency not previously known for customer-centered priorities.

When it comes to politics, we don’t always expect action. And we almost never expect government to lead in customer experience when the private sector routinely fails to do so.

DHS is Paperless!

That is why it surprised me so much when I encountered an empathetic, human-centered experience with the Department of Homeland Security. When I reached out to DHS with a need, I found they offered a call back feature. In addition to that, a hospitality-trained DHS officer called me back in a reasonable amount of time. And then, the DHS self-service portal made it easy for me to check the status of my mother’s case.

For all of us familiar with contacting government agencies, let’s take a close look at this. DHS is paperless. I will repeat this for all those in healthcare, insurance, and the investment world who have failed to get on board. The Department of Homeland Security is paperless.

I assure you, my friends, if a US Government agency can become paperless, you can too. Throw out those fax machines. And, please, invest in customer-centric client portals.

Why do you think the US government is investing in customer experience? Out of the goodness of their hearts? No. The USG is prioritizing customer experience because doing so creates efficiencies in their work. Customer experience investments cut costs while improving public opinion of the government.

Case in point, here I am, a customer experience consultant, singing the praises of US Government customer experience to more than 20K US and international readers! Who would have predicted that five years ago?

Why US Government Customer Experience Investment Matters

Why did we choose to flag this for all of you? Because this trend says more than all seven of the other customer experience trends we are highlighting.

A concentrated commitment to customer experience at the Federal Government level confirms, without question, that NOW is the time to invest in customer experience. So, stop deliberating. And get started. Prioritize the investment in your culture, people, and processes so the IRS doesn’t beat you at the customer experience game in 2021!

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