Customer experience is a whole-of-agency endeavor, leaders say

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Through initiatives like the Trump administration’s customer experience priority goal and legislation like the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act, the federal government is increasingly considering the experience citizens have when interacting with agencies.

But in order to make a real difference, digital-services leaders said at Adobe’s Government Symposium on Thursday, agencies need to expand their thinking. One way to make significant improvements in customer experience (CX) is to take a holistic view of all the public-facing elements of an agency’s mission, said Marcy Jacobs, the executive director of the U.S. Digital Service at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Simchah Suveyke-Bogin lead of the Customer Experience Center of Excellence at the General Services Administration.

“The way government is funded and organized doesn’t lead to good cross-agency CX improvements,” Jacobs said during a panel on personalized digital experiences. “It could be that a business line is building a thing and they’re not thinking about the context of how … anyone interacts across multiple touch-points.”

For example, a large agency like the VA might provide several unrelated services to the same person, Jacobs said, but there shouldn’t be wide variations in the CX for those tasks.

“It gets tricky when one channel at a time is trying to [improve customer experience]” Suveyke-Bogin said. “Coordinating” plans across different areas and teams is important she said.

Michael Leen, who works at the digital production company MediaMonks, said that in the private sector, this kind of coordinated approach can yield “incredible cost savings.”

But taking a wide view isn’t without challenges, Jacobs admitted. Sometimes looking at the whole of an agency “can be paralyzing,” she said.

“It’s big and it’s complicated and it’s multi-channel and it’s multi-year budgets and it’s not something that can be tackled, probably, in an administration,” she said. But try not to get too caught up in all that. Instead — “start with something.”

At the VA, the relaunch of VA.gov in November 2018 as a homepage for the agency-provided benefits that veterans use most was preceded by years spent developing and testing new digital tools at Vets.gov. And while the new VA.gov is important, it’s also just the very tip of a very large iceberg. The initial relaunch included just 200 redesigned pages of the more than 400,000 across VA.gov. Poke around on the site and it doesn’t take long to find “old” pages. These, Jacobs told FedScoop in February, will get rewrites and updates in the coming months.

“Just follow a thread and get some momentum and learn and then continue to iterate and grow that,” Jacobs advised Thursday. “Because trying to solve it all at once is not possible.”

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Adobe, Centers of excellence, customer experience (CX), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), General Services Administration (GSA), Marcy Jacobs
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