Like all our favorite superhero movies, innovation is getting a reboot.
For the last century, innovation has been about mechanization, automation, technological advancement, and the triple threat: robots. While that focus has paved the way for amazing inventions, it has come with frustrations for the people who use them—think automated helplines with labyrinthine menus, unmanned transit ticket booths that glitch whenever you’re running late, and the widely-quoted stat that half of all existing jobs will be performed by machines within six years.
While people appreciate the many conveniences that come with Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things, they don’t like talking to robots—or being treated like them. As a result, innovation now must pivot away from mechanization and toward humanization. With so many automated tasks and online interactions available (and necessary), hearing the voice of the customer is more important than ever.
Government and Customer Experience
The public sector faces particular scrutiny when it comes to customer experience (CX) because 1) the nature of most citizens’ interactions with government are transactional and fairly impersonal (renewing a car registration, submitting tax forms, obtaining marriage licenses, etc.), and 2) many U.S. citizens don’t feel their voice is heard.
During former Chief of OTech Davood Ghods’s confirmation hearing, he spoke of his constituents as customers—people whom he owed a valuable, enjoyable experience. The hearing committee commended him for a “refreshing” outlook and promising direction for the State. In his current role as VP of Direct Technology’s Government Solutions Group, Ghods continues to advocate for improved customer experience in government through technology services.
“We appreciate the customer-centric focus of the new administration in the State of California,” he says. With 30 years of public service, Ghods’s group sees both the client team and the client’s constituents as their customers. So much experience on all sides of the table (government, vendor, and citizen) comes with valuable lessons on how to ensure the voice of the customer directs an IT project, rather than just being background noise.
Build CX into Every Step of the Process
Customer experience isn’t just about a project’s final delivery; it starts with “Hello.” Think about a time you received excellent customer service. Whether it was visiting a great website, shopping at a boutique, or eating in a restaurant, your experience likely didn’t hinge on the fact that you completed your task. More likely, you had an enjoyable experience every step of the way, from the aesthetically pleasing environment, to the attentive and informative people helping you, to little extra touches that added an extra feeling of respect, understanding, or comfort to your task.
Government technology projects are no different. At Direct Technology, our goal is to ensure customers have a positive experience with every touch. This applies to our engagement as well as outcomes. Agile small teams are more flexible to solve challenges, and respond to inevitable hiccups along the way. Sometimes that means a late Friday night responding to a sudden technical issue for a statewide agency, even though it’s outside the SOW. Maybe it manifests in 1:1 calls with our consultants to ensure their work is going well and that they remain committed to the client’s mission. Whether your customer is a public organization or the general public, focusing on experiences outside the technology you’re working on goes a long way toward humanizing IT projects.
CX and the Platinum Rule
Our mantra for CX: treat people the way they want to be treated. The Platinum Rule serves as a reminder that not everyone wants the same experience, and that you must be prepared to channel diverse perspectives into an effective standard that propels everyone toward the common goal. What you see as good communication or a user-friendly application may not line up with your customer’s viewpoint. The best solution: ask them! When working with a City that needed a new website, Direct Technology spent months focusing on stakeholder input and UX research to learn what exactly the City’s team and their diverse citizens wanted and needed out of their website, with excellent results.
Here’s how you can be successful too: Make customer empathy a key objective. At the beginning of every project phase, reset expectations and confirm that the intended results and communications fulfill the customer’s needs. Survey all stakeholders, including the public if the project is public-facing. Conduct testing and training with key stakeholders so that the launch goes smoothly and outstanding questions are resolved, tailored to the people who will be most affected by the results. With high standards for requirements gathering and communications, you ensure your customers are heard in the most literal way.
Good CX Opens the Way for Innovation
When it comes to government innovation, citizens are cautiously optimistic about AI’s impact on their future experiences working with public agencies. Focusing on customer experience in your upcoming tech projects is essential for gaining and maintaining your constituency’s trust. And listening to the voice of the customer is the key to achieving a positive experience.
Need help creating an innovation roadmap or ensuring your IT projects follow CX best practices? Talk to us about what will best serve you and your customers.