The federal government hasn’t always scored high for customer experience, and this situation has implications for equity.
Consider the many steps involved in applying for, and keeping, federal benefits, for example. A constituent must find the services they need in the first place. Then they must prove their identity, fill out an application, and follow up if there are any problems. And the administrative complexity doesn’t end when they pass the initial eligibility hurdle. Maintaining eligibility often requires assembling complex paperwork, tracking compliance with requirements, scheduling in-person visits, and more.
It’s a time-consuming process and often the most difficult for people with the least time to spare, and most need for federal benefits. In fact, historically marginalized communities often have a worse experience accessing public services than their white counterparts.
One solution for addressing this situation is to improve the federal customer experience, making services and eligibility requirements easier to find and navigate. Here’s how data, consolidated into a Life Experience Framework, in which information about an applicant is shared by agencies across government, can help.
How can eligible applicants be processed more quickly?
Imagine if much of the information a benefits applicant needed to submit was already captured in a unified, cross-agency customer relationship management system. There’d be no need to re-input data the applicant had already submitted before, or re-scan and upload supporting documents—reducing the time, hassle, and obstacles involved in obtaining federal benefits.
Moreover, this information could be captured into a Life Experience Framework to streamline the eligibility process itself. If one agency has already collected information about a constituent’s income, work history, or other eligibility criteria, another agency could use this information in their own programs. This means that eligible applicants move more quickly through the process, with fewer steps, and those who aren’t eligible know of their status earlier, before they sink more time into entering data and gathering documents.
That’s the power of the Life Experience Framework, and how sharing data on eligibility lowers the burden for both constituents and federal agencies. In fact, this is just the beginning of the potential benefits.
Expanding awareness, streamlining access
Qualifications for one federal program, like meeting a specific income threshold, can make someone eligible for other services and benefits. But too often these constituents aren’t aware of their options beyond the application in front of them, and they often lack the time and resources to search online, make phone calls, and ask questions about what else is out there. As a result, they may be missing out on other services or benefits that could improve their lives, or programs that might be a better fit for their needs.
This is where the Life Experience Framework comes in. Such a framework would connect the consolidated information about an individual constituent with the consolidated view of government services. Guided by accessible, situationally appropriate tools, constituents would be able to see a fuller picture of their options, within departments and agencies and across the federal government. Then, through consolidated data on their eligibility status and program requirements, they would be able to access the best ones for their needs, with less time and frustration and fewer obstacles.
In terms of customer experience, the Life Experience Framework reduces time and hassle. In terms of equity, the Life Experience Framework improves access by removing barriers from those with the fewest resources.
A powerful fraud-fighting tool
Whenever a criminal accesses a federal benefit or service under false pretenses, they take this resource away from an individual or family who really needs it. This makes fraud prevention a critical part of customer experience and equity, and another area where the Life Experience Framework can help:
— Delivering agencies a consolidated, shared view of eligibility criteria and status
— Strengthening identity verification, to ensure people are who they say they are
— Streamlining otherwise time-consuming security checks, for greater compliance and fewer attempted workarounds
As the federal government aims to increase equity in areas from health care to the wealth gap, a data-powered Life Experience Framework across government can help. It will require inter-agency cooperation. It will require clear metrics, starting with spending data for individual programs and departments and continuing with metrics for progress and success, to ensure resources are being allocated in the most effective places.
Finally, such a solution will require data-sharing permissions from those applying for services, an area recently challenged by fear and a lack of trust. But improved customer experience helps improve constituent trust in the long run. When people are able to access the services they need in less time and with greater efficacy, they’ll realize that the data they share is being put to work for their own benefit. And they’ll be more comfortable being a part of a continually improving system, delivering a high-quality experience to all constituents and streamlined access to needed services.
Santiago Milian is a principal at Booz Allen Hamilton, who leads customer experience programs including for the General Service Administration’s Center of Excellence for CX and the U.S. Postal Service’s mobility programs. Jenna Petersen is a program design strategist for the company.
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