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Biden targets federal CX improvements with executive order

President Biden issues a detailed executive order that lays out agency-by-agency federal digital experience improvement mandates -- and builds accountability into the process.

U.S. President Joe Biden issued a sweeping executive order to improve federal CX this week. It gives specific agencies different marching orders, and adds an element of reporting accountability to each.

Biden's Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government lays out ways to reduce what it terms "time taxes" on individuals conducting business with federal agencies, from applying for farm loans to renewing passports.

Examples of specific projects for 25 agencies named in the executive order include website redesign for the Department of the Interior to streamline permit applications; online purchasing testing for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children beneficiaries; and expanded personalization and customer support for Medicare enrollees.

"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," states the executive order. "Government must also work to deliver services more equitably and effectively, especially for those who have been historically underserved."

CRM vendors could be big winners

Agencies are likely to purchase technologies that include CRM, chatbots and AI to enable more efficient services, said Irma Fabular, a Gartner analyst. She added that some agencies would also probably expand their cloud infrastructure footprints to meet the President's mandates.

Add to that business process optimization and automation technologies on the software and services sides, said Tom Nieto, chief operating officer of Accela, which automates processes and digitizes paper workflows for 80 of the 100 most populous U.S. city governments.

The executive order's broad, sweeping mandates are in stark contrast to the FACE Act, a bill making the rounds in Congress that, if passed, would alter a Paperwork Reduction Act to enable agencies to conduct more detailed voice-of-the-customer data collection.

Both Biden's executive order and the FACE Act are continuations of a decades-long bipartisan effort to digitize and automate interactions between U.S. residents and government agencies, Fabular said. The executive order references other laws and orders dating back to a 1993 executive order that discussed methods to improve federal CX.

There isn't necessarily a lot of new content in the executive order, Fabular said, but the accountability it lays out could push federal CX improvement in ways previous initiatives didn't. Agency heads are required to report to the Office of Management and Budget about the progress they've made toward their mandates, and OMB officials will report findings to the White House chief of staff.

"There are a lot of challenges, but the fact that they're written with prescriptive guidance for each of these agencies or departments -- I'm hopeful that there's going to be good progress made in the next two to three years," Fabular said.

Federal CX statistics
Federal CX spans many agencies, but these represent the most contact with U.S. residents.

CX vs. digitizing paper processes

Part of what's behind the legislative and executive branch's desire to improve federal CX is making government work more efficiently. Transactions that involve paper inherently take much longer, Nieto said.

"Oftentimes [permit or license] applications are coming off a piece of paper literally on clipboards," Nieto said. "We're starting to see more and more legacy technologies that were implemented 10 years ago -- and really haven't been updated -- that are really causing a slowdown from a citizen engagement perspective."

Improvements must go beyond simply digitizing processes, and must be redesigned to make them more user-friendly -- and therefore more accessible and equitable -- to the wide swath of U.S. residents that interact with the government. That's where the focus on customer experience comes in: Instead of just replacing paper with one-to-one digital equivalents such as simple webforms, automating the data ingestion and approval processes can cut delays.

Budget and funding are always a challenge.
Irma FabularAnalyst, Gartner

Residents speak different languages, they have access to a wide variety of digital devices, and they have varying levels of education. Nieto said he believes that strategically located kiosks that offer an onramp to many government services and websites will eventually replace paper for U.S. residents who don't own digital devices.

But before that can happen, federal agencies must standardize their approach to CX as much as they can, share best practices, and share information, Fabular said. That, and overcome budget constraints that private enterprises building their own digital experiences don't have to deal with.

"Budget and funding are always a challenge," Fabular said. "This executive order would help get those funding areas the business justification to be prioritized."

Don Fluckinger covers enterprise content management, CRM, marketing automation, e-commerce, customer service and enabling technologies for TechTarget.

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