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In Conversation: Fundamental CX Challenges are Contributing to a Decline in Citizen Trust

For decades, trust in the U.S. government has been in a slow, steady decline. Today, citizen trust hovers below 25%, according to a recent Pew Research study. Of course, there isn’t just one factor responsible for this decline—trust in politicians, the health of the economy, and even routine interactions citizens have with government programs all contribute to this overall trust metric.

At Avtex, we’re particularly interested in this last factor: How the modern government citizen experience frustrates users and damages the relationship between government organizations and the stakeholders who matter most—their constituents. In this conversation, VP of Public Sector Accounts Aaron Mosby, Digital Transformation Consulting Practice Lead Mike Bawn, and Head of Experience Strategy Larry Mead discuss some of the CX orchestration challenges contributing to these poor experiences. They also discuss some of the solutions that can help government experiences get back on track.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Mike: When we look at this question, “What are the challenges with public sector citizen experiences?”—there are a handful that come to mind. But I think one of the key challenges is that often the delivery of a government service spans multiple agencies, or multiple functions within an agency, and they all have disparate budgets and disparate goals and objectives. Unlike in private sector experience orchestration, you don’t get to that one single person who owns all elements of delivering that experience. So, you’re going to have to get different groups and different departments together to play, because it is a team sport.

Larry: I think there is a lesson to be learned though. One thing that we’ve seen in the private sector—and no solution is necessarily applicable everywhere—is that when you have someone who horizontally owns the experience day-to-day, who owns the end-to-end experience, that is invaluable. If they are measuring lead time, and there is somebody looking every day and saying, for example, “We have this many people in our pipe that need a social security replacement card and they are stuck here, here, here, and here.” When we have the analytics to see that, all of a sudden that person can have a big influence on the organization and take a horizontal, customer-like look at the experience.

Those kinds of individuals and having those kinds of roles can be very successful. We’ve seen that in retail, in banking, in the provider space in healthcare—where somebody wakes up every day and is thinking about looking horizontally and spanning all of the siloes of that experience.

Aaron: That brings up another question about the uniqueness of this public sector environment. Take the example of our Social Security Administration Safari [a webinar where we walked through the citizen experience of replacing a social security card]. There’s only one place you can go to do that. You can only do it at the Social Security Administration, and we can extrapolate that the thing that is very important to the SSA and Congress, ultimately, is that we are only issuing social security cards to the appropriate citizen and protecting that identity. That can be the number one thing. So, if you’re an administrator, security might be your number one thing to consider. Whereas the citizen experience may only be the second or third most important thing.

When you are in these regulated environments, where security and protection are at the forefront, how do you have those conversations about citizen experience and weight it against security?

Larry: It is a different environment. But oftentimes what is missed is that you could free up a lot of resources to put on the investments you want to make by thinking about citizen experience. When you get a simpler, better experience for citizens, it is almost always going to result in less cost for the taxpayer, [an experience that is] easier on the employees, and it’s certainly easier for the citizens.

Organizations that think about how to do this faster, cheaper, or simpler—and in a secure way—free up investment to put in other things. One of the things that we go through with organizations struggling with how to invest resources, is helping them establish a north star and a vision that says a simpler experience is going to be a less costly experience—by a lot.

Aaron: And that cost savings could be funneled into better security measures or going after fraud—things like that.

Mike: We saw this with online banking 15 years ago. They faced the same challenges. They wanted to be able to move online—it saves the institution money, and it is more convenient for consumers. So, these aren’t new challenges, necessarily. Involving those security folks in the design of the process and your digital experience, that’s mandatory up front to get buy in.

Aaron: As we are rounding out this conversation, if I am an agency leader and I am thinking through ways I can humanize that experience, what are some things I need to think about, or some approaches I need to take?

Mike: It starts with that end-to-end look we were talking about earlier. When you talk about humanizing the digital experience, it is also figuring out where in that experience should I digitize, where does it benefit both the agency and the citizen, and where does the citizen really need a human touch? Then, where does it not make sense to digitize, in which case we can benefit from freeing up human capital to help with these instances? These are the initial mapping questions that can help you begin to chart the course to a better citizen experience.

Ready to take a deeper dive into this topic? Start with this webinar on Humanizing the Public Sector Experience.

Watch the Webinar