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

Government CX is Maturing: Highlights from the White House's Refreshed CX Accountability Framework

The White House's updated CX accountability framework adds equity and updates the definition of CX in the U.S. federal government. Here are the five of the most interesting things about how federal agencies are expected to think about customer experience now.

Federal agencies have an updated framework for customer experience accountability. The White House Office of Management and Budget recently refreshed OMB Circular A-11 Section 280, which is all about how agencies need to weave the practices and principles of CX into the fabric of their culture.

OMB’s CX guidance has grown from 8 pages to 11 pages. It sits inside of OMB’s larger OMB Circular A-11, which is a document of 1,000’ish pages that guides federal agencies on the “what, when, and how” of conducting the business of government in a transparent way. It gets a refresh every year or so.

With the refresh, you can expect to see some changes to Section 280. I've been tracking, writing about, translating for the press, and speaking about the OMB CX guidance since it was initially published a few years ago.

I sat down to compare the past guidance with the new. From where I sit, these are the five most interesting things about the latest changes.

New! Equity is injected into the definition of government CX.

OMB’s newly expanded definition and view of CX includes equity, inclusion, and accessibility. This is in keeping with the president’s recent Executive Order on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility, as well as OMB’s recent report to the president on equity assessment methods.

In addition to the expanded definition, the new Circular A-11 Section 280 instructs agencies to measure customer sludge more holistically. Sludge is about administrative burden, compliance costs, and friction. Research shows sludge impacts the experiences of the customers of government in numerous negative ways. (See subsections 280.3, 280.6, and 280.13.)

New Acronym! Priority Life Event/Priority Life Experience (PLE).

A priority life event or experience (PLE) is when something happens in a customer's life that pushes them to need help from multiple government agencies, or across government programs. One example might be starting or expanding a small business. That life event may involve working with both the Small Business Administration and the Export-Import Bank of the United States, for example. OMB wants agencies to think about what they do in the context of the customer’s PLE.

Putting PLEs into the framework of Circular A-11 Section 280 is important because it shifts thinking away from a strict focus on programs and services, toward what a customer’s life and lifestream look like. OMB will share a list of example PLEs later, on (See subsections 280.1 and 280.4.)

Putting PLEs into the framework is important because it encourages a shift in thinking away from just programs and services, toward what a customer’s life and lifestream look like.

CX is spelled out as a priority, just like agency financial and operational performance.

Circular A-11 Section 280 has helped to move CX practices from the realms of “nice to have” into reality for federal agencies since OMB initially published it a few years ago. However, the updated guidance now clearly spells out that CX is just as important as financial and operational performance. It's no longer an implied priority. (See subsection 280.3.)

Broadens the scope of agencies that need to comply.

Historically, Circular A-11 Section 280 has been geared toward the major federal agencies. OMB refers to them as high-impact service provider agencies (HISP) agencies. The updated guidance calls more agencies up to the CX plate, using a connection to the work that needs to be done to comply with the Integrated Digital Services Act (IDEA).

Also, with PLEs as a frame of reference for considering what experiences actually are in the eyes of customers, small agencies could conceivably have new CX work on their to-do lists. Moving beyond the big agencies is important because it moves us toward a whole-of-government approach to CX (See subsection 280.1.)

Makes it clear that CX isn't about products and programs alone.

Overall, OMB’s new guidance is clear: Agencies must move away from strictly focusing on their programs and services and move toward understanding customers, what goes into customer perceptions of their experiences, and how to interweave elements of digital and equity into decisions that are made. Agencies must understand what they are doing every day in the context of customers’ lives, not just their own programs. (See subsection 280.4.)

CFOs, COOs, strategic planning chiefs, budget people, auditors, program managers, deputy chiefs of staff, and others regularly look at OMB Circular A-11 for guidance, guidelines, and requirements. CX consultants, performance executives, and CX practitioners will want to bookmark the new Section 280. Feel free to reach out for more insights.

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