Naysayers love to complain that real customer experience (CX) improvement is only for the private sector because government is subject to unique and insurmountable pressures. Don’t believe these cynics. Many major corporations must overcome the same hurdles, and some federal agencies are finding ways to break out, too. Use this list of comebacks to subdue government CX skeptics the next time they start raving about:

  • Entrenched organizations. Even the most stagnant agency can change. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is taking a wrecking ball to its ossified structure with a major CX pivot that includes an overhauled organization; revised policies and procedures; and personnel changes that include the appointment of a chief customer officer. Private sector companies in perennially paralyzed industries like airlines are also breaking free. Delta Air Lines has soared in our CX Index thanks to major innovations to its policies, procedures, technical capabilities, and training.
  • Complex regulations. Healthcare companies groan under the weight of federal and state regulations, yet some companies in this industry find new ways to provide outstanding CX while working within the system. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan shot up more than 20 points in our CX Index last year by simplifying technical terminology and making interactions clearer for customers. Despite being hamstrung by outmoded regulations and congressional meddling, the US Postal Service just tied for first among the 18 federal agencies on our CX Index.
  • Risk aversion. The financial services industry is as reluctant to change as government. However, companies like Citibank are breaking the mold with exciting CX upgrades that have led to double-digit improvements on the CX Index. Citibank recently refreshed its branches with a contemporary look that defies the stereotypically sterile bank atmosphere and introduced an innovative internal social media platform for employees to share information about customer interactions.
  • Shortsightedness. Federal executives often complain that agencies can’t implement long-term change because they can’t plan beyond the 2.5-year average appointee length of service or the two-year congressional election cycle. CX professionals at publicly-traded companies wish they had that long! Most public corporations live in fear of their quarterly investor calls and annual shareholder meetings, at which they might get lambasted for stressing long-term planning instead of short-term profits and soft CX innovations instead of traditional IT and business process management changes. Amazon, Charles Schwab, JetBlue, and other publicly-traded companies at the very top of the CX Index overcome the challenge by educating stakeholders on the value of better CX and making sure that new execs arrive ready to continue the transformation.
  • Budget constraints. Budget is a red herring. Federal agencies dedicated to boosting their CX have found ways to improve that actually save money. Federal Student Aid started saving $7 million a year simply by combining several websites into the single portal that customers wanted. FSA saved money on the project by implementing the change over three years, in line with scheduled content management system upgrades. The Social Security Administration (SSA) saves big money with its Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Mobile Wage Reporting app. Now that customers have the tool they need to report income more accurately, more often, SSA pays out less in unearned benefits than it used to.

So don’t give in to the naysayers. Instead, tell them that your agency’s problems aren’t unique. That other federal agencies and companies have overcome these same hurdles to improve their CX. That it’s time to stop making excuses and get to work improving the government customer experience.