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Customer Experience Resources and Guides

Whether you're new to customer experience (CX) or you're a seasoned practitioner, the resources and information in this page can help you take your CX knowledge to the next level.

Customer experience is more than just customer service. It’s the combination of measurable factors, including ease, efficiency, equity, and effectiveness, that result from touchpoints between an individual, business, or organization and the Federal Government over the duration of an interaction and relationship. Touchpoints with the Federal Government may include digital interactions via a website or mobile application, in person interactions with Federal employees, and phone interactions.

Fortunately, there are proven approaches to fostering a customer-centric mindset in the Federal government. Consult the resources below to learn about the core components of customer experience and human-centered design and identify ways you can build CX momentum within your team, your office, and your Component.

Tips for Starting Your Customer Experience Journey | Performance.gov

It can seem daunting to know where to start on the journey towards continual measurement and sophisticated management of your customers’ experiences. In Government in particular, those responsible for delivering services can feel like there is a lack of sufficient resources, talent, and leadership support to enable good customer experience practices.

While direct investment is important over the long term, there are also a number of low-cost, low-lift actions that can contribute to a positive difference in how citizens experience your agency’s services. Here are some actions you (a Federal employee at any level!) can take within your agency.

How Customer Experience (CX) Can Help Your Agency | GSA - IT Modernization Centers of Excellence

The best way to learn about your customers’ needs is to go where your customers are; observe them in their daily environment as they live, work, and use your products and services; and ask them directly using methods that test assumptions, reveal hidden needs, lead to practical solutions, and are supported by data.

HCD, UX, and CX: Why Their Differences Matter and Why They Don’t | GSA - IT Modernization Centers of Excellence

HCD, UX and CX aren’t the same things, but they have a great deal in common. They all involve researching the needs of users and working with them to design and test solutions. They each offer an alternative to traditional system-centric development that has proven, over time, to be ineffective. Most importantly, they all define and solve problems from the perspective of the people who receive services and use products, putting those people’s wants and needs at the center of development.

How Do You Use a Journey Map? | GSA - IT Modernization Centers of Excellence

A customer journey map helps organize your research findings in a way that uncovers patterns, reframes the data, and helps your team identify new insights. Along the way, you’ll validate (or reject) assumptions and get insights into your customers and stakeholders that you just can’t get from a straight-up process map.

Mapping the Cross-agency Customer Experience | Performance.gov

Journey mapping and service blueprints are an essential part of sharing findings with others. Learn how to capture the most important points in these maps.

Personas 101 | Digital.gov

Personas are descriptions that give you an understanding of your users and how they use your product or service. Personas can take on a variety of forms depending on your organization’s needs. But there are a few basic questions and ideas that every persona should include to ensure that the tool is useful.

The DHS CX/UX Community of Practice is an information resource and community for DHS employees, both Feds and Contractors, interested in learning about and discussing customer experience improvements across the Department.

Please Note: This a public forum that your boss and everyone above them could see. Posts to the CoP could end up in The Washington Post or other media.

Please follow the Digital.gov guidelines for their topical government communities, including:

  • Understand your agency’s policy about using all government equipment.
  • Behave online in such a way that you do not bring your agency into disrepute, even if you are not officially representing your agency.
  • Please be patient: CoP members have different experience levels. You may consider some of the conversation threads on a particular topic simple, but they are fundamental for people to learn.
  • Practice constructive criticism: Please review your language when participating in conversation. Engage in conversation by articulating your thoughts. Abide by, “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it at all!” Read your comments over before pressing send.

How to join the Community of Practice listserv

  • Members must have a DHS .Gov or .Mil address to sign up and be approved to join.
  • Go to https://groups.google.com/u/1/a/usds.dhs.gov/g/dhs-cx-cop-group to create your Google Group account (you can sign up with your government email to use Google Groups) and to request access to the DHS CX CoP Group.
  • Our Community Managers will review application requests and approve them within roughly two business days.
  • After you are approved, you’re welcome to post, ask questions, share articles, or read through the archives.
  • If you have any questions or issues, message CX@hq.dhs.gov and we’ll help you out!

DHS Usability Testing Kit

This kit has everything you need to conduct usability tests for any DHS service or solution, whether you’re working in the office, working in the field, or teleworking. Learn about usability testing, how it can help your team improve the customer experience for the DHS services and solutions you support, and how to conduct a successful usability test.

Federal agencies like the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have created customer experience playbooks, comprehensive guides for CX implementation within the Federal Government. Use the guides below to learn about CX best practices and approaches that can help you foster a customer-centric mindset and improve service delivery within DHS.

Thirteen Plays of Our Customer Experience Approach | GSA - IT Modernization Centers of Excellence

This playbook represents a synthesis of ideas gathered from interviewing several subject-matter experts (SMEs) and leaders in CX and Human-Centered Design (HCD). Whether you are just curious about CX, already dabbling in CX, or a professional CX practitioner, this playbook can offer insight to enhance your agency’s CX presence.

GSA CX Center of Excellence CX Buying Guide | GSA - IT Modernization Centers of Excellence

Many businesses provide services that they claim are used to understand customer experiences and improve them. Some of these claims are reliable and some may not be. The purpose of this guide is to give evaluation recommendations to representatives of federal agencies as they shop amongst those providers. We provide a dual lens of what to seek and what to be cautious of.

The CX Cookbook: A Collection of Key Ingredients & Recipes for Embedding Customer Experience in Federal Services (PDF) | Department of Veterans Affairs

This cookbook highlights specific key ingredients that agencies can utilize to implement CX and fulfill the spirit and intent of Federal customer experience directives.

Human Centered Design Discovery Field Guide (PDF) | Performance.gov

This guide offers step-by-step guidance on how to conduct HCD discovery and then synthesize the research findings, towards the goal of helping your agencies identify opportunities to improve service.

Journey Mapping Workshop Guide (PDF) | Performance.gov

Use this facilitator’s guide to lead an interactive workshop to identify opportunities for helping your customers access your organization’s service(s)*. The activities are planned for participants from one or more federal agencies. The results may expand upon existing programs, reveal opportunities for collaboration, or generate new ideas.

This guide uses the journey of service members transitioning to civilian employment as the identified service, but the activities and templates within can be applied to many DHS services.

Federal Service Identification Worksheet (PowerPoint) | Performance.gov

This worksheet is meant to serve as an initial conversation facilitation tool at your agency to re-imagine yourselves in the way your customers see you.

DHS High Impact Service Providers (HISPs) and many other Federal agencies are employing leading human-centered design approaches and tools that help them better understand their customers and identify opportunities to improve service delivery.

The OneUSDA Ecosystem: Visualizing the Connections Between USDA Customers, Services, and Agencies | GSA - IT Modernization Centers of Excellence

The Customer Experience Center of Excellence (CX CoE) set out to visually represent the OneUSDA Ecosystem: a comprehensive view of USDA services and customers, with the power to reveal overlaps, bring clarity to complex customer and employee interactions, and uncover opportunity areas within the department and its agencies.

A cross-agency collaboration between the Department of Agriculture and GSA.

The Journey to Affordable Housing for Seniors | GSA - IT Modernization Centers of Excellence

Using human-centered design (HCD) research methods, the CoE team interviewed very low-income seniors, intermediaries who facilitate HUD programs that serve seniors, and HUD representatives to understand the activities and challenges involved in navigating HUD’s affordable housing programs. The learnings from this research were visualized in a journey map and via a service blueprint.

A cross-agency collaboration between the Department of Housing and Urban Development and GSA.

FEMA 2021 CX Profile | Partnership for Public Service

Each year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency helps hundreds of thousands of people recover after disasters, providing critical emergency services, financial support, and other assistance. Remote property inspections, launched out of necessity during the pandemic, are helping disaster survivors get easier access to inspections to verify damages.

TSA 2021 CX Profile | Partnership for Public Service

Every year, the Transportation Security Administration interacts with millions of travelers passing through airports and other transportation hubs. Customers appreciate the general travel information and answers to their questions that TSA provides over social media using its #AskTSA accounts. Customer satisfaction with the agency’s website has also increased in recent years. The agency has improved the clarity of information on the site, although many customers still call the agency’s contact center to confirm information.

USCIS 2021 CX Profile | Partnership for Public Service

USCIS is now working to improve the experience for attorneys and legal representatives who helps applicants navigate the process and making it easier and quicker for customers to complete tasks when interacting with the agency across multiple channels.

CBP 2021 CX Profile | Partnership for Public Service

As international travel resumes and border restrictions are lifted, Customs and Border Protection is increasing its use of technology to streamline the customs experience.

Personas and journey maps are essential pieces of a customer experience team’s toolkit, helping them organize and analyze their customers and their experiences accessing services, identify challenges and opportunities, and bring service improvements to life.

Surviving a Natural Disaster | Performance.gov

Those who have lived through a natural disaster are facing one of the most difficult experiences they’ve ever encountered: attending to their families’ most basic needs while experiencing trauma, stress, and multiple bureaucratic processes. In these most vulnerable moments, survivors expect the government to step up.

A cross-agency collaboration between the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Agriculture, Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Small Business Administration, and the Social Security Administration.

Seeking Employment After Service | Performance.gov

Each year, approximately 200,000 service members leave the military. Employment statistics have continued to improve, but there is more to understand to improve the rates of those that find a career that is satisfying, has potential for development and higher wages, and recognizes valuable skills veterans have.

A cross-agency collaboration between the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Labor, and the Small Business Administration.

Recent guidance from the White House, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and Congress has established customer experience improvements as a top priority for Federal agencies that provide essential, public-facing services.

Executive Order 14058: Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government | Federalregister.gov

Our Government must recommit to being “of the people, by the people, [and] for the people” in order to solve the complex 21st century challenges our Nation faces. Government must be held accountable for designing and delivering services with a focus on the actual experience of the people whom it is meant to serve. Government must also work to deliver services more equitably and effectively, especially for those who have been historically underserved. Strengthening the democratic process requires providing direct lines of feedback and mechanisms for engaging the American people in the design and improvement of Federal Government programs, processes, and services.

OMB Circular A-11, Section 280 - Managing Customer Experience and Improving Service Delivery (PDF)

Implementing the guidance specified in this section will establish a more consistent, comprehensive, robust, and deliberate approach to CX across government.

The purpose of this guidance is to:

  • Establish a CX-mindful culture across Federal Government services
  • Improve customer satisfaction with and trust in Federal Government;
  • Provide structure and consistency around how agencies/programs approach CX;
  • Promote program accountability and governance mechanisms to improve quality and service;
  • Ensure high-impact programs are making progress in growing CX program maturity, service definition, and applying leading practices;
  • Ensure high-impact programs are receiving an acting upon customer feedback to drive
  • performance improvement and service recovery;
  • Allow for government-wide comparative assessment of customer satisfaction; and
  • Ensure transparency through public reporting.

21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act | Congress.gov

The head of each executive agency shall regularly review public-facing applications and services to ensure that those applications and services are, to the greatest extent practicable, made available to the public in a digital format.

Burden Reduction Initiative Memo (PDF)

DHS Chief Information Officer Eric Hysen sets clear expectations for Components in a memo he signed on March 22, 2022, working to improve the delivery of key, public-facing services to meet the Department’s 2023 burden reduction goal of 20 million hours through human centered design practices.

Improving Access to Public Benefits Programs Through the Paperwork Reduction Act (PDF) | WhiteHouse.gov

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) provides guidance in this April 13, 2022 memo to help Federal agencies identify and reduce burdens associated with applying for and maintaining eligibility for public benefits programs, with a particular focus on members of underserved and marginalized communities.

Highlights:

  • Largely in support of the recent Executive Order on transforming Federal customer experience and service delivery.
  • Calls for more transparency on the burdens and costs of collections.
  • Centers on reducing burden for the people who are most adversely affected.
  • Encourages using design practices to assess, evaluate, and improve the experience of providing information to the United States Government.
  • Emphasizes assessing burdens across the entire service that a collection is part of, including psychological burdens and learning costs (such as having to figure out where in government to apply for a benefit).
  • Agencies should get generic clearances if they don’t already have them.
  • If you believe your exact collection (and its format and delivery) is required by law, get with your General Counsel to reexamine your options.

A Guide to the Paperwork Reduction Act | Digital.gov

Learn about the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) and what it means for the American public and Federal employees.

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 | Congress.gov

Read the full PRA, signed into law on May 22, 1995.

As you learn more about customer experience at DHS, you'll find several important words and concepts are used frequently. These key terms are clearly defined in Federal CX guidance: Executive Order 14058 and the OMB Circular A-11 280.

Customer: any individual, business, or organization (such as a grantee or state, local, or Tribal entity) that interacts with an agency or program, either directly or through a federally funded program administered by a contractor, nonprofit, or other federal entity.

Customer Experience: a combination of factors that result from touchpoints between an individual, business, or organization and the Federal Government over the duration of an interaction and relationship. These factors can include ease/simplicity, efficiency/speed, equity/transparency of the process, effectiveness/perceived value of the service itself, and the interaction with any employees. Perceived responsiveness to individual needs and feedback is also important.

Service: the sum of the help provided—by an agency and its partners—throughout the process a customer goes through to obtain, receive, or make use of a public offering (or comply with a policy).

Service Delivery: the multitude of diverse interactions between a customer and Federal agency such as applying for a benefit or loan, receiving a service such as healthcare or small business counseling, requesting a document such as a passport or social security card, complying with a rule or regulation such as filing taxes or declaring goods, utilizing resources such as a park or historical site, or seeking information such as public health or consumer protection notices 

Human-Centered Design (HCD): an interdisciplinary methodology of putting people, including those who will use or be impacted by what one creates, at the center of any process to solve challenging problems.

High Impact Service Provider (HISP): a Federal entity, as designated by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), that provides or funds customer-facing services, including Federal services administered at the State or local level, that have a high impact on the public, whether because of a large customer base or a critical effect on those served.

DHS HISPs:

  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
  • United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

For additional Federal customer experience information and resources, please visit the following webpages:

Customer Experience | GSA - IT Modernization Centers of Excellence

Customer Experience Toolkit | Digital.gov

Building Trust Through Improved Service Delivery and Experience | Performance.gov

Customer Experience | Partnership for Public Service

Last Updated: 08/02/2022
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