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May 7th, 2019

How Federal Contact Centers Can Balance Citizen Experience, Operational Efficiency, and Fraud Mitigation

As a 2018 study conducted by Forrester and commissioned by Adobe, The Business Impact of Investing in Experience: A Spotlight on Government, stated: “The top initiatives for improving [citizen experience] include better managing the customer journey, improving cross-channel experiences, and adding or improving website and social media experiences.” The second and third initiatives may lead you to focus on the digital arena. It’s no surprise, given that “in the US, the number of federal customers using nondigital  channels dropped 5% in 2017, while unique visitors to federal websites grew 14%.”

In January, Rick Parrish, a principal analyst at Forrester Research who serves customer experience professionals in the government and private sector, summarized several reasons why improving CX makes smart business sense for federal agencies. According to Parrish’s research, for every one-point increase in an agency’s score on Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index™), it reaps the following benefits:

  • 2% more customers do what the organization asks of them.
  • 2.7% more customers are willing to forgive the agency when it makes mistakes.
  • 2.8% more customers will trust the organization.
  • 4.4% more customers will say positive things about the organization.

Digital channels promise greater efficiency and self-service—hallmarks of good CX—but there comes a time when citizens want to resolve their issues with help from a customer service representative (CSR). According to CFI Group’s Government Contact Center Satisfaction Index (GCCSI) 2018: “Despite the continued growth of multichannel contact centers, a voice phone call still dominates as the customer’s channel of choice. A full 80% of customers who contact customer service do so over the phone, a number comparable to the 79% for the private sector.”

Perhaps that’s because citizens are more confident in the contact center to provide the help they need. The Foresee Experience Index (FXI): Government CX Insights Report found that “On average, only 21% of people accomplish their tasks [in the federal government] on the first try.” Of the 79% of people who don’t accomplish their tasks on the first try, more turn to the contact center for eventual success than any other channel, including digital (see figure 1).


Figure 1. Federal agencies have more opportunities to deliver excellent citizen experience over the phone than through any other channel.

The federal agency contact center remains an essential point for serving citizens in the digital age. The opportunity for the agency begins the moment citizens pick up the phone to engage with the contact center. Improving CX there will have an outsized impact on the agency’s overall CX score, as well as its ability to reap the benefits described earlier.

However, agencies can’t invest in CX at the expense of two other imperatives: operational efficiency and fraud mitigation. Fraudsters threaten the ability of federal agencies’ contact centers to deliver an excellent citizen experience over the phone and maintain operational efficiency. Tightening security too much increases personnel costs and citizens’ frustration. However, relaxing security invites more fraud, making victims of the citizens whom agencies were founded in order to serve.

Federally run contact centers need to validate the identity of every caller to ensure a positive CX while balancing the optimal ability to prioritize work and mitigate against fraud. The challenge is knowing the right balance (see figure 2).


Figure 2. Leading federal agencies’ contact centers are giving citizens the experience they expect from the private sector, achieving operational efficiency that’s unparalleled in the public sector, and preventing criminal tactics that lead to account takeover and stolen resources.

In our new white paper, Achieving the Balance: Positive Citizen Experience, Agency Operational Efficiency, and Fraud Mitigation, we define seven mechanisms by which federal agency contact centers can elevate the citizen experience while optimizing operational efficiency and mitigating fraud. In summary, they are:

  1. Have the correct phone number and the number most used by the citizen.
  2. Call at the time of day and day of week that the citizen is most likely to answer.
  3. Give carriers fewer reasons to incorrectly block or mislabel calls as spam.
  4. Increase the probability that the citizen will answer the call by displaying the agency’s logo and contact information on the recipient’s phone.
  5. Mitigate common phone fraud risks, including SIM swapping, number porting, spoofing, call virtualization, and call forwarding.
  6. Identify callers calling from a number different than the one in the CRM.
  7. Allow more calls to remain in the IVR or correctly route them to a CSR without requiring knowledge-based authentication.

In addition to improving citizen experience, operational efficiency, and fraud mitigation, implementing these mechanisms will actively support achievement of four Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goals established under the President's Management Agenda (PMA): IT modernization (#1), developing a workforce for the 21st century (#3), improving citizen experience (#4), and shifting from low- to high-value work (#6).

To move forward, federal agencies’ contact centers need substantially more than a list of mechanisms. They need a clear understanding of the mechanisms’ underlying dynamics, individual requirements, and potential barriers to implementation, all of which is presented in clear, actionable detail in our Achieving the Balance white paper.

Take the first step to providing a better citizen experience now.

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