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October 29th, 2019

Remember the Customer in Customer Journey Mapping

The federal government’s interest in improving the customer experience (CX) has led to a lot of consideration of the steps that precede and follow a customer's interaction with an agency. While this has already improved CX at multiple agencies too much focus on ‘journey mapping’ may overshadow a subtle, crucial element of citizens’ actual experiences with agencies. These subtleties will be explained in a moment, following a bit of background.

In a recent article on Federal News Network, KPMG states—rightly—that customer journey mapping relies on data: “Data is really the underpinning of helping organizations understand who their customers are and what their experience is… The more an organization understands what their customer is doing, how they are interacting, what their experience has been, who they are and why they’re coming back, then it’s going to be easier to personalize that interaction. The data is a basic building block of identifying and improving a customer’s experience.” 

Yes, data is essential to improving citizen experience

However, by design, no federal agency has the complete picture that KPMG describes. The Computer Matching and Privacy Act (1972)—enacted at a time of genuine concern that computers could become autonomous if fed too much data—keeps agencies from leveraging customers’ data fully and giving an experience on par with the private sector. (In a future article I’ll explain how federal agencies can remain compliant with this law while taking advantage of subsequent advances in information technology and identity resolution. Contact me for a preview if you work at a federal agency.) 

Federal agencies have had to make do with their internal data and some external, depersonalized data. Relying solely on internal data to personalize a customer’s experience—even if it’s ‘de-siloed,’ 'holistic,'—is a sure-fire recipe for mediocrity. Without incorporating data from external sources, the optimized experience will forever be constrained. (See How to Guarantee the Success of AI at Your Business for more on this point. The principle applies to the public sector, too.)

Improve interactions to improve citizen experience

Setting aside the question of data quantity and quality, let’s look at customer journey mapping. Deloitte illustrated the need for the practice well: "so much of what shapes a customer’s experience comes before and after the actual transaction. While a veteran may have a very positive relationship with his doctor, if he has to jump through hoops to get an appointment, or receives an erroneous bill that should never have come to him, there’s little the doctor can do to improve the overall experience."

In the context of the federal agency contact center, let’s consider every customer’s experience immediately before making contact—not the reason for the contact, or the decision to make contact, but the three-to-five seconds before the customer’s call is answered by an IVR, or before a citizen answers a call from a federal agency. In my conversations with government professionals managing federal agencies’ contact center, I’ve gotten the impression that this humble moment of outsized importance has largely gone overlooked.

The vital seconds before contact

For any customer experience with a federal agency contact center to be positive, agencies first have to know who's on the other end of the line. The sooner the better. 

That might mean recognizing and authenticating a customer who has failed to self-serve online, and is now calling in for help. That might mean determining the best phone number to call and time of day to call to make reminder calls to each member of a large group. That might mean reducing the anxiety of calling the IRS by beginning callers’ authentication before their call is answered, or displaying the IRS's seal on a citizen's phone, indicating that they should take the call.

This requires authoritative external data and a keen understanding of the citizen’s journey. How else can government deliver a citizen-centric experience?

Download the white paper Achieving the Balance for more on this topic.

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