It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since the signing of the Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government. 2022 has flown by, as efforts to improve the design and delivery of services have ramped up at DHS HQ and the Components. We can already see the progress thanks to the extraordinary work of the public servants across DHS dedicated to meeting mission objectives while also serving our valued customers—the individuals and organizations accessing our products and services. Not surprisingly, we’ve learned a few important things along the way so far:
- The signing of the CX EO has elevated existing CX work at DHS. This EO and the Biden-Harris President’s Management Agenda has brought CX to the forefront. Customer experience initiatives have existed for years in DHS Components, and the CX EO helped raise this work up, highlighting the research, design, and service improvements already underway and the passionate people behind it all. The EO is one of many tools we have to help us increasingly embed CX and human-centered design in the center of what we do to improve our services and experiences, and it will help us create the momentum we need to continue focusing on our customers well beyond this administration.
- Yes, DHS does have customers. By definition, “customers” are individuals, businesses, and organizations (such as grantees, state and municipal agencies) that interact with a federal government agency or program, either directly or via a federal contractor or even a federally-funded program. For DHS, our list of customers is very diverse, from travelers to immigrants to law enforcement officials to disaster survivors and even our internal staff. It’s essential that we engage these audiences through research and design and deliver services that are simple to use, accessible, equitable, protective, transparent, and responsive. To read more about the many types of customers we serve across DHS, check out our article Does DHS Really Have Customers?
- Customer experience at DHS is not one size fits all. What may work well for FEMA may not work well at USCIS, TSA, or CBP. Each DHS Component has its own culture, mission sets, organizational structure, internal processes, and more that are unique to them. It’s important that each Component’s CX approach be tailored to its unique mission objectives and customer goals to be truly effective.
- Customer experience may not always be called “customer experience”. CX has many dimensions, including the employee experience, being mission focused, putting people first, and streamlining a service or product, and it may take different names based on the focus and preferences of an organization. With every in-person or digital touchpoint, public or internal-facing, there is a customer. This includes DHS employees who, while they are focused on delivering on the mission at DHS, they are also customers for internally-focused services.
- We need more user research at DHS. There are pockets of user research happening across DHS, but not nearly enough. User research should be ingrained in the development of all DHS products and services. Getting to know your customers—their needs and goals, their pain points, their journey, and their emotions—creates products and services that are fully accessible, inclusive, efficient, and trustworthy.
- Try conducting usability testing in addition to (or instead of) User Acceptance Testing (UAT). While UAT is prevalent across the Department, we should be doing more usability testing. Usability testing allows us to see how usable our products and services are through observing and listening to real customers using our products or services. This important customer feedback cannot be gained from User Acceptance Testing. Usability testing can improve forms, internal processes for employees, websites, and any touchpoint we have with the public and employees. The DHS CX Team provides Usability Testing Training Basics on a monthly basis, which is open to all DHS employees and contractors.
To sign up for this training, please visit the training registration page.To read more about usability testing, its benefits, and how it’s different from UAT, check out our article User Acceptance Testing Versus Usability Testing.
- CX is critical in law enforcement and security missions. You may think CX has no role in law enforcement or national security. In reality, CX helps strengthen relationships and build trust, which is vital to public safety and security. Learn more about why CX matters to the DHS mission on our website.
- We lack visibility into CX at other DHS Components. There are pockets of CX excellence across DHS, but not everyone can see the results of that work where it is happening. The DHS CX Team is working to dismantle some of these barriers by connecting individuals and teams through cross-Component interactions and building communities of practice that will help us all see and learn about CX and HCD at DHS together.
- We need to CX all of the things. What do we mean by “all”? Customer experience needs to be infused into all of our internal processes, like budget, acquisition, programs and projects, and more—not just our public-facing services. CX is an investment that saves resources, improves the employee experience, builds trust with customers, and creates better products and services. Learn more about the value of investing in CX and human-centered design in our three-part series Why We Need UX Researchers and Designers in the Federal Government (Part 1).
- Everyone has a role. To create a customer-centric organization and culture, every person (leadership, program staff, business analysts, frontline employees, and everyone in-between) has the potential to create change and see things through a human-centered design lens. The CX mindset and the ability to identify design problems will take you far in your work to fulfill the DHS mission.
These are just some of the observations we’ve had over the past year as we’ve started building a customer experience program and fostering a customer-centric culture at DHS HQ. We look forward to more CX progress, milestones, and discoveries in 2023!