Government agencies strive to put ‘custom’ in customer experience
Federal CMOs are rethinking customer experience to achieve business objectives.
Like their counterparts in the private sector, customer experience specialists in federal government agencies are interested in using the best technology and service solutions available to forge better relationships with their customers. Government chief marketing officers (CMOs) and chief customer officers (CCOs) understand that customers expect their interactions to be engaging and positive—as well as digital and mobile—whether with a government agency or a private-sector brand.
For Amtrak, the partially government-funded passenger railroad service, this meant shifting from a customer service to a customer experience (CX) mindset. In 2016, the service embarked on an ambitious omni-channel program dubbed “EPIC”—conveying the goals of being easy, personal, intuitive, and compelling—which aims to provide a seamless experience for riders and employees alike. “We recognize this as a critical initiative that has a measurable impact on revenue, customer satisfaction, and brand reputation,” says Ghada Ijam, IT’s chief relationship officer at Amtrak.
Amtrak’s CMO, working in partnership with the rail service’s CIO, has prioritized mapping the customer journey, strengthening the relationships customers have with the organization, and improving the customer experience. One of the program’s objectives is to unify the booking, reservation, and ticketing functions onto a single user-friendly platform so customers, as well as internal and external agents, can work from one information system with end-to-end details on a rider’s travel itinerary.
Meeting customer needs
The close relationship between marketing and technology is core to meeting Amtrak’s customer needs and delivering a personalized experience. The EPIC team is using innovative market research tactics to identify customer desires, analyze customer experiences, and examine new channels for engaging customers. For example, team members took to the rails, traveling as “mystery shoppers” to gain an understanding of customer experience from a front-line perspective and to spot customer pain points.
For government organizations like Amtrak, as well as private-sector companies, rethinking the customer experience can help achieve business objectives. Here are 10 leading CX practices to consider:
- Hire a CCO.
- Use customer relationship management (CRM) systems effectively and extend the capabilities of CRM platforms to support CX solutions.
- Provide consistent and seamless omni-channel experiences, including familiar interfaces, comfortable interactions, and smooth channel-to-channel transitions—core components of successful CX.
- Offer quick troubleshooting through multichannel customer service solutions to resolve problems rapidly through whatever channels the customer wants.
- Align employee incentives with a customer-centric focus. Tie bonuses and promotions to CX performance and provide culture and loyalty-building informal recognition.
- Tailor experiences based on the customer’s personal history with the company. A customer’s buying patterns and areas of interest over time provide valuable context for creating and enhancing future offerings.
- Deliver information in plain language, with a simple, user-centric design. Maintaining focus on customer understanding and acceptance throughout the design process can produce high-quality offerings.
- Use “open innovation” and prize challenges to solve problems—programs such as XPRIZE. The XPRIZE Foundation is a non-profit with programs that are opening doors to new breakthroughs and opportunities.
- Provide transparent, real-time process tracking that puts customers in control. Leading organizations enable customers to always know the status of an order or inquiry.
- Develop targeted behavioral objectives from deep insights on customer behavior. Analyze customer preferences, actions and profiles to help guide the relationship into the future.
Implementing just one or two of these practices may help CCOs and CMOs begin to improve customer experience, inspire excellence in employee performance, and improve efficiency.
Published on May 25, 2016.