“The US Gov needs a #CX touchpoint assessment. Seems the GOPs and the DEMs are no different than siloes in companies where bonuses and infrastructure aren’t aligned and where each person in their silo is desperately clinging to their own jobs. It’s driving me NUTS!!!” – @MaryMarkowicz
I was so frustrated by the lack of focus our political leaders have on our country’s major issues that I did exactly what every other frustrated customer does; I tweeted. Annoyingly, even though I am a Chicago-based customer experience (CX) professional who has a decent Klout score, I did not get a response from President Obama, CEO of the United States of America, to handle my customer service concerns, to resolve his “company”’s branding problem, or even to take me out to one of his famous burger lunches; interaction a more forward-thinking company might have offered.
President Obama and before him, President Clinton, signed and ordered several actions over the past few decades aimed at improving the service federal agencies provide consumers; Executive Order 12862 Setting Customer Service Standards and Executive Order 13571 Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service to name a few. Implementing business best practices, putting people first, streamlining processes, and leveraging technology are the core tenants of all of these executive actions.
According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), federal agencies seem to be complying with leadership orders. Agencies are achieving reasonable improvements by sending out customer surveys, creating plans to streamline transactions, and conducting more business on-line and via social. Although the improvements gained from these actions are encouraging and commendable, there is still a lot of work to be done.
In January 2012’s press release, Claes Fornell of ACSI says, “At present, the federal government is 5 points below the lowest-scoring private sector economic segment information at 72.3—an improvement over a 7-point gap in 2010. … While people generally distrust federal government as a whole, they are much more positive towards the job that individual agencies are performing. … The lack of trust has much more to do with politicians than it does with federal workers and the services of the federal government.”
Because customer satisfaction improves when both the operational level and the strategic level of a company work synergistically, it is clear that presidential mandates may now be well intentioned yet woefully outdated. When a customer satisfaction effort isn’t bringing about needed results, it is time to regroup by understanding new market forces, rethinking approaches, and then revamping accordingly.
Federal agencies and our country leaders now need to take a giant leap from customer satisfaction as a mandate simply at the agency level into the world of Customer Experience at an integrated level; a strategy and approach centred around customers and proven by many companies to have significant and enduring positive impact on customer behaviours, revenue, and financing.
What are the top three things that the public sector – agency/operational and leadership/strategy levels – can do to pivot to a Customer Experience strategy?
1. Reconsider the core belief that all citizens are a captive customer base. Why? Competition and customer expectations – market forces – now come from everywhere, not just in like industries or even in the same country. Customers expect instant access to accurate information in a fast, easy, effortless manner, wherever they are and whenever they want it and public sector entities must align with customers’ needs and wants. The specific market driving forces include:
- The internet and its associated proliferation have created a common customer expectation that all commodity transactions can and should be handled on-line quickly. Zappos.com, Amazon.com, and UPS.com consistently provide examples of how customers expect all transactions to occur no matter what entity they are dealing with.
- The internet is now the place to go to do research, get instant answers, and to input information for others to use, whether broad or deep. Wikipedia.com, Google, com, and Mashable.com are examples of very popular information portals.
- Social media has changed how every business talks to its customers and the public sector is not immune to this requirement. Customers now drive the dialog and yes, it is now two-way and often group dialog, no longer a one-way communications channel. Facebook.com, Twitter.com, and WordPress.com are examples of digital communities.
- Public sector customers have the option of opting out of US citizenship, an option that several high profile people have taken recently. Just as consumers of products and services in the private sector can take their business to a competitor and vote with their wallet, public sector agencies and leadership must recognize that this too can and is happening here in the US at several different levels.
2. Revamp compensation plans at every level. Embracing a customer experience strategy means reinforcing fabulous service behaviour from front line staff to executives in offices in the form of bonuses and promotions. Deeply entrenched public sector thinking regarding salary structures and promotions can change when based on the right metrics.
3. Update how customer experience feedback is collected and analysed. Customer satisfaction surveys and their associated C-Sat scores were the only tools we had ten years ago but not now. Today, more relevant, timely, and dynamically actionable customer feedback methodologies include Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Scores, Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs, sentiment analysis, transactional feedback, Big Data, touch point analytics, and customer lifetime value (CLV) metrics. Many large businesses use most if not all of these approaches to get holistic views of their customers’ thinking and market trends.
It is interesting to note that several business analysts and financial investors are now including a company’s NPS scores into analyst calls or when making investment decisions. This very same expectation could easily happen when analysts or investors wish to know how focused a country’s leaders and its agencies are in serving its constituencies before they rate credit worthiness or investment options.
The time is now. With the lowest ACSI scores in the country, below that of even the lowest-rated cable company, and the obvious growing unhappiness people have with federal agencies and leadership, the public sector obviously needs to quickly pivot efforts to a customer experience strategy.
And how more appropriate could this be? After all, we are a Democracy of the People by the People for the People – the ultimate Customer Experience strategy!
© Mary Ann Markowicz
Originally published 08-27-2012 on Customer Management IQ.