The US federal government — and governments around the world — have officially embraced customer experience (CX) improvement as a key goal. That’s great news, since our research shows that better CX leads to mission success and the efficient use of taxpayer funds. Right here in Washington:

  • The President’s Management Agenda includes “improving customer experience” as a “cross-cutting priority area,” complete with a standing committee to drive change.
  • Since the Office of Federal Student Aid created the first federal chief customer experience officer in 2010, the office has gained traction across federal agencies seeking to organize CX efforts.
  •, managed by the General Services Administration (GSA), offers an entire CX toolkit that contains a host of resources for all federal agencies.

Unfortunately, all this attention has yielded few results so far. Forrester’s own Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) and the American Customer Satisfaction Index — the two preeminent federal CX measures — show that federal CX is weak and stagnant. What’s worse, this poor CX hurts the public’s relationship with its government. For example, Pew Research Center recently found that only 17% of Americans trust the federal government to do what is right.

However, we shouldn’t be discouraged. CX transformations can take years, even for relatively small private sector organizations. The key for federal agencies is not to rush but to approach CX transformation systematically. To succeed, agencies must:

  • Start with a CX strategy. A CX strategy guides activities and resource allocation. An effective CX strategy includes: a vision that describes the CX the organization intends to provide; a vivid description of the customers the agency intends to provide its experience to; a gap analysis that identifies the delta between today’s CX and that described by the CX vision; a road map to lay out the projects necessary to achieve the broader goals of the organization; a list of owners for each project or swim lane in the road map that creates accountability; and KPIs to assess the contribution of CX to overall mission performance.
  • Master CX management. Federal agencies that master CX management provide the right CX reliably and efficiently, whereas agencies that do not cannot. That’s because delivering great CX reliably requires mastering 12 key activities across the six essential competencies of CX management: research, prioritization, design, enablement, measurement, and culture.
  • Transform the employee experience (EX). Engaged employees are more productive, turn over less frequently, and — crucially — provide far better CX than unengaged employees. Unfortunately, most federal EX efforts fall short because they target the wrong outcomes, focus on HR-led management practices, overlook gaps between job demands and resources, and miss technology factors. To really improve EX, agencies must transform their culture, leadership, technology, and resources to help be as motivated and productive as they can be.
  • Invest in real-time analysis. Periodic surveys are necessary — but insufficient — for CX measurement because they lack immediate actionability. Only real-time analytics can capture the feedback that agencies need to adapt when customer expectations change or when problems arise with CX delivery. When combined, periodic and real-time measurement give agencies the power to address both tactical and strategic CX issues. That’s essential for sustained CX improvement.
  • Stop confusing technology with CX improvement. No matter what tech vendors say, people — not technology — is the most vital component of any CX transformation. Technology certainly plays a part in CX, but tech is just a toolkit. And tools only work for people who know how to use them.

To further explore how improved CX can help your organization, please read my full report, “Why And How To Improve Government CX,” or schedule an inquiry.