Feds improve customer service through data analysis

Wednesday - 6/27/2012, 12:01pm EDT

By Taeja Smith
Special to Federal News Radio

Agencies need to make informed decisions to improve customer service and satisfaction.

This means agencies need to change the way they traditionally collect and organize databases because they are becoming too costly. Instead, agencies need to better analyze the information they collect to make critical decisions around operations and delivery of services to the citizenry and businesses.

BusinessUSA is one example of how agencies are using data to improve customer service. Efrain Gonzalez, deputy director at BusinessUSA.gov, said the site has reduced 11,000 websites from 56 agencies to one central portal and a toll-free number. Currently, Business Usa has consolidated nearly 400 business resources and identified more than 80 tags per content type.

"The complex nature of navigating so many resources to find the right tool, program and information created a higher probability for identifying wrong resources and a frustrating experience," said Gonzalez, during a June 22 webinar sponsored by Government Executive Magazine. "Extensive tagging allows for filtering and elevating information based on customer searches and needs."

To monitor customer feedback, "a log that captures comments and suggestions have been implemented, voter surveys are available, and BusinessUSA is able to view comments virtually and manually to help eliminate spam and non respectable language," said Gonzalez.

Improving agencies' interaction with customers

President Barack Obama signed an executive order in February requiring agencies to use technology to quickly connect businesses to the most relevant government resources.

Recently, the White House released the Digital Government Strategy. It promotes another approach to updating their Web and mobile services to improve how they reach and interact with citizens and businesses.

There are various areas that government agencies have introduced to help improve government-communication inadequacies.

"Truly measuring customer experience can really prioritize where they allocate limited time, money and resources on improvements that will have the greatest impact on overall satisfaction," said Dave Lewan, vice president for public sector and sales operations at ForeSee.

Managers can predict satisfaction by reviewing customer's traffic through the website and other various channels. "Satisfaction often time determines what citizens do next and is the driver of financial success," said Lewan.

A key problem with agencies is they "can't manage what they don't measure," said Lewan.

Lewan said some key points in measuring satisfaction are:

  • Satisfaction is the combination between what's received and prior expectations.

  • Customer expectations are insatiable. To rise to that occasion, E-government is producing a thorough, accurate and easy to find mobile and Web access to help customer's accomplish their tasks.

  • Satisfaction is measured on a 100-point scale with 80 and higher being highly satisfied.

The opportunities that E-government offer can help lower cost and raise customer satisfaction. Lewan said some key behaviors that drive lower cost are:

  • The likelihood to return a website, recommend a website and used a primary website is determines a customer's behavior.

  • Lowering cost of delivering information and services have the biggest impact, said Lewan. "The ability to get an effective experience through E-government will allow agencies to achieve its duties without movement through a more expensive channel."

  • Website elements such as thoroughness, accurateness, ease of use and access to information perpetuate satisfaction.

The Education Department's Federal Student Aid has integrated all aspects of student's customer experience by improving its products and services.

"We identified more than $1.5 million in savings from consolidating websites over the years," said Mindy Chiat, project manager at Education.

Federal Student Aid optimizes customer's experience

In the past year, the Federal Student Aid program created a customer experience office to analyze and optimize student experience. From that office, the agency is developing Student Aid to streamline site information, offer comprehensive information about student aid, and its first mobile services. This portal is expected to launch in the next few weeks.

Chiat said her office is rewriting the information in plain language and bringing subject-matter experts to convey various student aid facts.

Additionally, Chiat said, a new social media website has been added for after hour services or questions. Advancing new improvements will continue by gathering information from focus groups and online surveys.

Taeja Smith is an intern with Federal News Radio

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