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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Thum, Ph.D., CCXP

About that Call for a Federal Chief Customer Officer…

Updated: Dec 12, 2020

There’s no shortage of special interest groups in the U.S. that want to get the attention of the Biden-Harris administration right now. From immigration to trade to animal rights, the asks and recommendations have been flying.

Recently, Forrester, a consulting firm that has government customer experience as part of its repertoire, issued a call for the creation of a federal chief customer officer (CCO) role.

It’s not the first time there’s been a call for a U.S. federal CCO. Forrester flagged the same opportunity in 2015.

One would also likely find consensus among the sea of people—both feds and contracted consultants—now working on things like customer research and feedback, journey mapping, contact centers, and business process improvement, at various individual federal agencies.

I, personally, agree that it is time for a federal CCO. Past time. After all, we have had a federal chief information officer (CIO) and chief information security officer (CISO) who focus on tech and security. Now is a good time to appoint someone who can bring harmony to government-wide efforts to improve the experiences of the people who use government.

By the way, that’s all of us.

I don’t think it’s impossible to get a federal CCO. However, it could be complicated. There are multiple variables to watch as the new administration takes shape.

Here are two, for starters.

Leadership at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

OMB has been a driving force behind the evolution of customer experience in the U.S. federal government since my time leading CX for the Export-Import Bank of the United States 2012-2016.

Since then, OMB has created policies and worked to minimize the legal roadblocks agencies encounter when trying to get the most basic, tactical CX work done. They've been a major facilitator for the President's Management Agenda goal on customer experience.

CX been more than just lip service for OMB. The proof is online as they work with high-impact government agencies on publicly reporting their customer experience performance metrics. Accountability is the point. An overarching framework is now taking shape.

To continue building that momentum, OMB will need strong leadership that is in touch with the needs of customers of government. Neera Tanden is the presumptive nominee to lead OMB. The federal CIO reported through OMB. It makes sense that a federal CCO would, as well.

Recommendations from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

GAO is a watchdog agency that audits and makes recommendations on how federal agencies can save money and work more efficiently. Over the past few years, GAO has recommended on multiple occasions that agencies embrace CX practices for improved performance.

GAO recently started a webpage on important presidential transition topics.

Customer experience, unfortunately, isn’t a listed priority. However, the page does call out the need for more focus on personnel matters and inter-agency collaboration in the next administration, which, if successful, would eventually benefit the customers of government.

We won’t know until we know. Customer experience is not a sexy subject in the political theater. Coronavirus, immigration, and defense issues make the big news headlines for government. CX doesn’t.

Don’t Forget Where We Came From

The most recent swell of support for CX practices in government started during the Obama administration when now-President-Elect Biden was then Vice President Biden. So, this wouldn’t exactly be new territory.

The work has indeed grown since the Obama years. Most recently we have seen how customer experience practices can be put to work beyond basic websites and business processes into the procurement ecosystem and business risk management activities.

The thing about predicting if the Biden-Harris administration will take the step of appointing a federal chief customer officer is we won’t know until we know. Customer experience is not a sexy subject in political theater. Coronavirus, immigration, and defense issues make the news headlines. CX doesn’t.

But the work, focus, and interest have grown to the point one simply cannot put it aside. CX is a nonpartisan thing that just makes fundamental business sense for government, no matter who is in charge.

I look forward to watching how the next steps unfold.

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