In May 2017, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., introduced a bill known as the Federal Agency Customer Experience Act of 2017. If enacted in its current form, the bill would put more consistent attention and effort on federal agencies’ taking more of an outside-in approach to delivering citizen services.
In short, the bill would require the chief performance officer or other senior accountable official for customer service at each covered agency to collect voluntary feedback from citizens. Those results would be made public online and via an annual scorecard that also includes an “analysis of administrative and legislative barriers to improving service delivery.”
Enacting this or similar legislation is the first step in implementing much more comprehensive and impactful Voice of the Customer programs across government. VoC programs are an organized approach for not only collecting customer feedback (surveys are one method), but also focus on rigorous analysis of the meaning of the feedback and, most importantly, leveraging the analysis to improve the organization’s decision-making and service delivery.
As the government embarks on implementing this legislation, it is important not to lose sight of additional steps to take to reach the end goal — agile and efficient improvements in services provided to citizens:
Listening: The surveys required by the bill are just one of the necessary methods to gain a valid understanding of citizens’ real attitudes and behaviors. Coming to that understanding requires many more modes of both active and passive listening such as interviews, focus groups, social media monitoring, etc.
Analyzing: Once collected, the feedback needs to be effectively analyzed to understand and interpret what citizens are saying about the services they are receiving. It's not helpful to know there is a “score” of some sort for a given service. Agencies must understand why citizens are rating services as they are. Further, agencies need to develop a way to effectively communicate and share these results across the organization so action can be taken.
Act: While listening and analyzing are necessary, they are pointless if action is not taken to improve. Challenges in the bill’s design in this area have been pointed out related to unintentionally hampering the government’s ability to resolve service issues directly with individuals. The bill’s requirement to report annually on barriers to improving service is notable. Those barriers must be addressed expediently or the listening and analysis effort will have been wasted and, worse yet, not acting on citizen feedback will only further erode citizens' confidence.
Measure: Each organization needs to develop the appropriate measures of success from all of the efforts outlined above. While these will differ from agency to agency, it is critical each organization implement metrics that clearly connect changes in satisfaction and service to the desired business/mission outcomes for each service.
The Federal Customer Experience Act is a good and necessary step. To move from hearing how citizens say they feel about their experience to truly understanding citizens, improving their experience and measuring the business impact will require significant additional effort.