Customer experience (CX) is an important aspect of digital transformation. Ideally, a transformation project will lead to easier access to federal agency services for the public. CX begins with human-centered design and should incorporate change management as critical to measuring and implementing successful change. As agencies work on transforming their back-end systems, users of federal websites and other services should find ongoing improvements through implementing change management and human-centered design.
Numbers tell the story. Forrester Research reports that the federal government’s CX score (based on 15 key agencies and programs) is 10.7 points lower than the private sector average and lower than any other single sector or industry.
In December, President Biden signed an executive order (EO) called “Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government.” Recognizing the importance of good customer service and aligned with the recently released President’s Management Agenda Vision, the EO specifies 36 CX commitments across 17 federal agencies.
The 17 agencies are among the designated 35 High-Impact Service Providers, defined based on the volume and types of services they provide to the public. The EO directs agencies to consider their customers first in everything they do. It calls for actions including modernizing programs, reducing administrative burdens, and piloting new online tools and technologies.
Appreciating the scope of the endeavor
To take CX seriously—whether required by executive order or not—transformation has to be truly transformational. It is not just a one-for-one swap, replacing legacy systems with modern technology. It requires modernizing and standardizing business processes—not just what the agency does, but how it does it, optimized for digital execution. Financial management and acquisitions are key federal agency functions that are prime targets for process re-engineering that leads to better CX.
Change management is a critically important part of this process. People are naturally resistant to change. An end-to-end change management approach helps end users become aware of the reason for change and the associated benefits. Involving them early leads to more acceptance of the changes as they come into fruition, lessening resistance and contributing to the project’s overall success.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is implementing a modern financial and acquisition system that is transforming the existing financial processes along with technology capabilities. The end users of this new system will consist of agency employees, contractors and others who will use the transformed systems and processes.
Through these improvements, VA will be able to provide a better customer experience to veterans through improved financial processing speed, accuracy, reporting and customer service. I count three essential success factors in this financial and acquisition management transformation:
- Apply a robust change management framework
- Collect and analyze change management data continuously
- Apply data insights to improve CX
The success factors: A detailed view
The change management framework— Applying a formal change management methodology is key to gaining acceptance from employees and others who will become the new systems’ end users. Primary components include:
- Organizational change management and user readiness to empower stakeholders to drive awareness, define change impacts, equip for process changes, and increase buy-in and adoption to propel lasting change.
- Best practice training to prepare an agency’s workforce to successfully adopt new and changing technologies. This entails identifying skills and knowledge necessary based upon end-users’ specific roles in order to operate effectively.
- Post go-live, customer support and care to provide reinforcement when the transformed system comes online. The first 90 days are critical for success so users will need heightened support for that period.
- Applying human-centered design through interaction with users to further improve business process and simplify applications and web pages.
Comprehensive change data collection and analysis—This is not a short-term undertaking. It should be a continuous process, including:
- Upfront stakeholder analysis and interaction to strengthen relationships while capturing feedback and concerns.
- Organizational change assessments (OCAs) to measure awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement (ADKAR) throughout each phase of the implementation
- Polling at key stakeholder events to gauge the voice of the customer (VOC)—that is, user sentiment.
- Training event surveys to measure user satisfaction with trainers, training materials, course content and course length.
Application of data insights: As agencies collect and analyze change and CX data, they can turn that data into actionable information for leaders to:
- Address implementation challenges, including concern about standardization, comfort with legacy business processes (resisting change) and COVID-19.
- Adjust project plans to allow users to see the system early and often based upon OCA data feedback.
- Revise the approach for training content as appropriate, based upon training survey results.
- Simplify user interface (UI) for high-volume transactions based upon training and customer support metrics.
Change never stops coming
Applying formal change management and human-centered design practices helps improve the adoption of new processes and technologies. This, in turn, allows digitization to have a noticeable effect for customers.
Customer experience is a growing priority in government. This new executive order will increase the amount of feedback agencies collect in dealing with citizens and revamp the way agencies communicate how they serve citizens. The CGI Management Consulting Practice is prepared to advance CX and the successful adoption of technology innovation, change management and process improvement.