Welcome to the second installment of this series on Congressional action that could affect federal customer experience (CX). As I said in my first post, the purpose of this series is to help federal CX advocates track bills that could affect federal CX. That way, we can suggest improvements, help good ideas become law, and plan for what happens when they do.

This week, let’s look at H.R. 1831, the Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2015. It’s a performance management bill would create a 15-member executive branch group called the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking, consisting of experts in “economics, statistics, program evaluation, data security, confidentiality, or database management.” H.R. 1831 would empower the commission to:

  • Study and make recommendations on how administrative data on federal programs should be combined and made available to improve program evaluation and improvement.
  • Make recommendations on how to incorporate outcomes measurement and impact analysis into program design.
  • Consider whether a “clearinghouse for program and survey data should be established.”
  • And “decide what administrative data is relevant for program evaluation and federal policy-making and should be included in a potential clearinghouse.”

As with the Government Transformation Act, which I touched on in my first installment, the Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2015 could actually harm federal CX as it tries to improve program performance. That’s because the commission is likely to focus almost entirely on traditional process efficiency metrics and ignore customer-centric performance measurements. And this isn’t just important for big public-facing programs like Medicare. Every program — even the most obscure, internally-focused one — has a customer, and the customer’s perspective is a key factor in the definition of success.

There are two reasons why this bill could harm federal CX. First, the commission members are likely to be experts on traditional efficiencies and totally unconcerned with the customer experience. Take another look at the type of people who are supposed to serve on the commission: experts on “economics, statistics, program evaluation, data security, confidentiality, or database management.” In my experience, experts on these topics rarely have much interest in CX.

Second, the commission will have much more detailed and plentiful data on traditional efficiencies than on CX to use when making its recommendations. Few federal programs have real voice of the customer programs. Instead, they make due with occasional (and often poorly designed) surveys, basic web analytics, and a hodgepodge of other ad hoc measures. On the other hand, highly advanced traditional performance metrics are deeply embedded in federal programs. Faced with a mountain of traditional efficiency information and a molehill of CX data, the commission would certainly focus on the former.

Luckily, each one of these problems has a solution. To ensure the commission doesn’t ignore the customer perspective, the bill’s authors should simply add text that ensures some commission members are experts in “customer experience measurement.” The solution for the lack of CX measurement isn’t quite so simple, and I won’t presume to cover it in detail here. Simply put, federal programs need rigorous, consistent, multimethod voice of the customer programs to provide the sort of actionable data that this commission would find compelling.

The Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2015 has a real chance of becoming law. The bill made it out of committee in both the House and Senate, so it’s cleared the biggest legislative hurdle. Let’s do our part to make sure that if the bill moves forward, it does so with a modern focus on the customer experience, not merely on yesterday’s outdated measures of success.