Customer Experience for Public & Private Sectors: Achieving CX Success

In this article, we are taking a deep look at customer experience. We’ll define CX, check out sweeping changes affecting the public sector, and then we’ll look at examples and key features that power excellent customer experiences. Browse the entire article, or jump to what's most interesting to you:

Changes to Federal CX         How to succeed at CX         

Let’s revisit the age-old question we ask when problems arise in an IT network that impact a business application: Is it the database, the application, or the network? Things were never simple, of course. In recent years, massive architectural complexity has attached to every IT, security and engineering environment — all with the hopes of higher speeds, lower-costs, better reliability, and improved security.

But with all that, are we really improving customer experience (CX)?

Now, pardon me, but I’ll answer this question with another question: When was the last time you contacted Meta, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, or Alphabet for help? Even better, to request a new feature or capability? You likely found that it was pretty easy to find an answer without talking (or typing) to anyone! Troubleshooting, ordering new products or services, billing, and even predictive product and service enhancements have all been figured out by digital service providers long ago. That’s because they built it with these things in mind. 

When it comes to public sector organizations, this becomes much more complicated — especially federal agencies offering critical services across digital and non-digital channels to millions of people relying on those services daily. And where there’s reliance, there must be trust.

What is customer experience (CX)?

Customer experience (CX) is exactly what it sounds like. We can define CX as the overall perception and feelings a customer has about their interactions with a company or brand across various touchpoints and throughout the entire customer journey.  

  • A good or positive CX means that your customers are satisfied, their needs are met, and their interactions with your organization are positive. 
  • Bad or unsatisfactory customer experience involves dissatisfaction, frustration, and negative feelings resulting from poor interactions and/or poor service delivery.

Indeed, that last point — service delivery — is critical. CX often hinges on good service delivery, as it involves delivering a seamless, efficient, and pleasant customer experience. We can look at CX on an individual level, whether you’re having a great experience, and writ large: in general, are your customers satisfied with their experience from your organization?  

Example of customer experience

As an example, let’s take a standard call center (contact center). Let’s look at a call center delivering positive CX versus one delivering not-so-positive customer experiences. 

And remember that call center work has changed significantly in recent years: with the increase in both working from home and worker concern about data privacy, there’s a lot more that organizations have to consider today. For instance, simply hearing how a call between an agent and customer is going in real time is a lot harder.   

When a customer is proactively seeking help, they might reach out to a call/contact center to have 1:1 live help from an agent. For that customer to have a great experience, they might expect some or all of these factors:

  • Personalization: Tailoring interactions to individual customer preferences and history. For instance, the call center agent greets the customer by name and references their previous interactions or purchases.
  • Efficiency: Minimizing the customer's effort by quickly resolving their issues or inquiries. The customer doesn't have to repeat information multiple times or navigate through complex menus.
  • Proactive communication: Informing customers about updates, delays, or changes before they have to ask. For instance, notifying the customer about a delay in their order and providing a new delivery estimate.
  • Empathy: Showing understanding or compassion towards customers' concerns. The agent listens actively and expresses genuine empathy when the customer describes their issue.
  • Resolution: Effectively resolving problems and providing solutions that meet the customer's needs. The issue is fully addressed, and the customer is satisfied with the outcome.

In contrast, a negative customer experience might be marked by:

  • Impersonal interactions: Treating customers as numbers or tickets instead of as the individuals they are. The agent doesn't acknowledge the customer's history or specific needs.
  • Long wait times: Keeping customers on hold for extended periods without updates. A high average speed of answer (ASA) leads to frustration and wasted time for many.
  • Lack of transparency: Not providing clear information or updates, leaving customers in the dark about the status of their requests or orders.
  • Rudeness or disinterest: Agents display a lack of empathy or professionalism, leading to negative emotional responses from customers.
  • Unresolved issues: Failing to address the customer's problem adequately, resulting in repeated contacts or unresolved concerns.
  • Holds and transfers: There’s nothing worse than waiting in a queue to speak with an agent, then repeatedly being placed on hold or transferred to a different queue.

Any time you’re working with others, good CX involves promptly addressing customer inquiries, providing accurate information, and ensuring the customer feels valued and understood. This is great! Positive emotions like these build customer loyalty and encourage repeat business. 

Bad CX, on the other hand, entails long wait times, inconsistent information, rude or unhelpful agents, repeating information, and unresolved issues. It’s not hard to see where this gets organizations: dissatisfaction for customers and employees alike, negative word-of-mouth, and loss of customers.

Watch how Papa John's cut through complex technologies to improve their customer experience across all channels for all users: websites, POS sites, apps — all so customers can enjoy their pizza sooner: 

CX at the federal level

Recently, the U.S. government has embraced the concept of a positive customer experience as intrinsic to the work the government does. Indeed, in December 2021, the Biden Administration released the Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience & Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government. This recognition gives a huge boost to CX — if you weren’t paying attention before, you might be now. 

The Executive Order is directed primarily towards high-impact service providers (HISPs), that is federal entities who offer customer-facing services at the federal level, or federally funded services delivered at the state or local level. Regardless, all agencies are encouraged to apply specifically this guidance to improve their service delivery and customer experience. 

Let’s look at a couple key areas of this Executive Order, also known as EO 14058.

The goal of EO 14058

The first section of the executive order lays out its purpose: to make it easier for the qualified members of the public, also referred to as customers, to "experience Government." This experience is what you’d go through in a variety of scenarios, like when applying for and receiving a small business or college loan, social security benefit, tax return payment, veteran disability compensation, medicare/medicaid benefits, housing voucher, or assistance through Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). 

It also includes an entire process before service delivery: trying to find the right resources to learn more about how and where to apply, then choosing a digital channel (a website, chat, mobile application) or a physical channel (walking into a local office or calling the contact center) to get the request underway.

All of this time spent by the public waiting equates to billions of hours of lost time, referred to as a "time-tax."  

EO 14058: How to improve customer experience

Through this executive order and supporting guidance via OMB A-11, Section 280, the U.S. Government has set a goal to save time for every individual who interacts with a federal agency, whether that's to apply for a service they are entitled to, or simply to request a status update. 

This cannot be achieved easily. In fact, it requires a transformational shift to view interactions and service delivery through the eyes of the customer. The executive order refers to this as a "human-centered design”. In such a design, you are then measuring progress in two ways:

  • Direct feedback, or the "voice of the customer"  
  • Indirect feedback via the actions of the customer

Section 6 of the EO provides guidance on actions to improve customer experience by implementing methodologies that include:

"observations of customer interaction with the agency’s website or application processes and tools; or observations of customer support service delivery such as activities at call centers."

OK, so we can say that EO 14058 wants us to use a human-centered design approach to give back time to all the people involved. It also wants us to observe those interactions — this is where a concept called observability comes in: observability is leveraging data generated by the physical and digital interactions customers have with applications, people, and bots in order to:   

  • Proactively improve service delivery.
  • Continuously enhance customer experience.

Observability is critical because it allows you to have a lot more knowledge about what’s going on, both in your systems and across customer interactions. Sure, surveys offer organizations the ability to attain periodic customer experience assessments about services delivered. But there are several known issues when relying primarily on survey results to improve service delivery. The results from surveys...

  • Are only available for a small percentage of all customer interactions. It’s akin to measuring the pulse of 1 patient out of every hundred that enters a medical facility.
  •  Only offer point in time snapshots. It’s impossible to learn anything after only watching every 50th frame of a tutorial video on YouTube.
  • Skew heavily towards negative experiences. This is important, but imagine having vehicle navigation directions that only alert you when you’re going the wrong way. It’s just as important, and arguably more important, to know when things are going well.
  • Provide a siloed view of the services offered through different channels. This might be like going to see a movie and while the movie itself may be amazing, the lines to scan tickets and get snacks were too long and caused you to miss the first 15-minutes.

Real-time data analyzing all customer experiences to continuously improve service delivery is a refreshing, perhaps needed, complement to surveys. The survey or customer experience assessment can be used as a supplementary component — to help validate and verify an expected customer experience. 

In other words, we should first look at the digital footprints of each customer experience derived from data to tell us the story.



How to succeed at federal CX

So, the best way to succeed at customer experience is to first look at each experience your customers are having. Today, many organizations are not prepared to do that — they do not have the data or they do not have the means to understand it. 

Let’s take a look at how this is applied: we’ll use the example of a traditional call center, like we talked about earlier. Through the use of modern AI-enabled public cloud technologies that offer full transcriptions and summaries of phone calls, two primary capabilities are available:

  • The ability to detect and also act on poor customer experiences is available.
  • The ability to investigate which agents are consistently offering exceptional experiences, or which remote agents have an unstable network connection or malware affecting their workstation and preventing them from delivering an exceptional CX.

In a legacy call center, attempting to gather this information would be near impossible. But today, that modern version is already available — you can detect and act on poor CX while also highlighting agents for consistency and exceptional experiences. 

This dashboard in Splunk App for Amazon Connect helps to analyze transcribed conversations from Amazon Connect Contact Lens. This dashboard can easily show you:

  • Sentiment analysis scores and grouping by agent
  • Filterable word clouds for most common topics either during the conversation or by the individual customer or agent
  • A detailed view of each conversation including the transcription and associated metadata like timestamp, agent name, and whether the customer or agent was speaking

(Learn more about Splunk App for Amazon Connect or download it for free right now.)

Splunk App for Amazon Connect helps to analyze transcribed conversations from Amazon Contact Lens. This dashboard includes sentiment analysis scores and grouping by agent, filterable word clouds for most common topics spoken by customer, agent, or during the entire conversation, along with a detailed view of each conversation. 

Features & technologies for customer experience success

Certainly, a lot goes into customer experience — and it’s not limited to technology. People, processes, knowledge, budget and many other factors also contribute to a good (or terrible) customer experience. 

When it comes to your foundation, though, your technology needs to be in place so that you can make the most of each customer interaction. Let’s look at some of those factors

Data platform with no predefined schema

Ideally, when designing an app or website, you’d be able to build in telemetry from the ground up. But, as we know all too well, environments consist of many, many apps and many, many websites, all in various stages of digital transformation. When it comes to the telemetry, some may be:

  • Custom-built with telemetry enabled by the developer.
  • Low-code apps where the vendor is responsible for generating telemetry.

So, you’ll want to select a data platform that can be used to answer known questions — as well as questions that will come up in the future. To translate that, you’ll need a data platform that has no predefined schema and the ability to structure dissimilar datasets of varying formats as needed. This way, every question can be answered, provided the raw data is available.

(Know the differences: Data platforms are comprehensive data solutions that can work with databases, data warehouses, data lakes and even data lakehouses!)  

Ability to collect MELT data 

Next, the data platform should be adept at collecting every metric, event, log, and trace (MELT) that’s capturing digital exhaust from a wide variety of IT assets. It should also have the ability to process and correlate all of that data based on timestamps so that events can be grouped to show:  

  • An individual user journey
  • Trends over time
  • Other patterns as detected

Flexibility & customizable

Finally, you’ll need your data platform to be flexible enough to enable building custom statistics from the raw, machine-readable data. This means you can turn the data into:   

  • Analytics
  • Reporting
  • Dashboarding
  • Alerting

Splunk for observability: excel at the customer experience

Splunk helps you to transform CX and continue to rebuild trust in the government by not only tying these touchpoints together, but also helping you harness and digitally dissect the information from a previous interaction, to provide the prescriptive guidance customers will appreciate. 

Get started with Splunk for contact center analytics today, or engage an expert to learn more about how Splunk supports Federal Civilian agency mission objectives and your near-term CX goals.

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This posting does not necessarily represent Splunk's position, strategies or opinion.

Khalid Ali
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Khalid Ali

At Splunk, Khalid currently helps Public Sector Federal Civilian agencies with their cloud journeys. He has held multiple roles at Splunk in the past as an Advisory Architect, Customer Success Manager, and Industry Advisor for Telecom & Media and finds himself constantly thinking about innovative, data-driven solutions to help customers drive revenue, save costs, and improve customer experience. Khalid's foundational experience comes from nearly two decades serving in a number of Network and IT roles in the CTO organization for major U.S. telcos.