The Biden administration should work with Congress to create a permanent federal chief customer officer (CCO) role to oversee policy, spending, and interagency coordination for all federal customer experience (CX) efforts.

Folks at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and some US federal agencies have been working hard to improve the quality of federal CX. Their efforts have yielded modest gains at some agencies, but Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) shows that the quality of federal CX remains poor and lags the private sector. Average federal CX quality has risen only 4.6 points on our 100-point scale — from 56.5 to 61.1 — from 2015 to 2020. Many agencies’ scores have remained flat that entire time.

That’s not the fault of the CX teams at OMB or any particular agency. Given the vastness and complexity of the federal government, just keeping up with the pace of rising customer expectations is a win.

Nevertheless, Washington needs to do better. That’s why it is time to create a permanent federal CCO. Our research shows that — under the right conditions — a CCO is key to improving CX quality. The US federal government meets those conditions because it has customer interactions that cross organizational boundaries and an established focus on CX.

The Key Traits Of The First Federal CCO Depend On The Biden Administration’s CX Strategy

The first federal CCO must be a problem solver with experience working across agencies and high standing among other senior officials. CX expertise is optional — the new CCO can hire staff with skills in measurement, design, and other competencies that are necessary for a successful CX effort. Our research on CX leaders shows that it’s more important for a federal CCO’s personal characteristics to match the administration’s strategy for CX:

  • A CX revolution requires a visionary CCO. If the White House wants a quantum leap in federal CX quality, the first CCO should be a risk seeker, prefer big ideas and new solutions, and have a big personality and high tolerance for ambiguity.
  • A CX evolution needs a technocratic CCO. If the administration wants incremental improvements within the scope of existing federal CX work, the first CCO should be detail-oriented and efficient, prefer concrete challenges and existing solutions, and have good one-on-one relationship skills.

For more details about the key traits of successful CCOs, check out our research advocating for a federal CCO.