“Of the people, by the people, for the people.” In its simplest and most straightforward definition, the primary role of government is to serve its citizens. Government services frame and fuel our everyday lives, by providing public education, responding to disasters and emergencies, maintaining the safety of our citizens, or protecting our natural resources. Every day the government impacts the lives of the citizens it serves. While government is the ultimate service-oriented organization, their core objectives and expectations have been focused on efficiency and effectiveness rather than on improving the overall citizen-to-government experience.

The Federal Agency Customer Experience Act of 2017 (H.R. 2846 – 115th Congress (2017-2018), is a clear indicator that federal agency priorities are shifting as they relate to improving the citizen experience. The Act will empower agencies to gather voluntary feedback through their citizen-facing channels and then subsequently develop a scorecard for each agency based on citizen satisfaction.

This legislation is a positive first step at helping agencies to focus their efforts toward transforming the citizen experience. The process of evaluating service delivery will spur many agencies to adjust their customer service policies and procedures in order to improve their citizen satisfaction metrics. Making the information transparent to the public will also encourage government leaders to allocate resources toward improving the overall citizen experience.

In reviewing the current draft language, however, there is one detail that we believe limits an agency’s ability to truly engage with their citizens. Section 5 states that “each agency that solicits voluntary feedback shall ensure that…responses to the solicitation of voluntary feedback remain anonymous and shall not be traced to specific individuals or entities.” I believe the intent from the authors is a desire to ensure that citizens submitting feedback aren’t at risk of retaliation, or that personal information won’t be released through an FOIA request or online leak. While these are valid concerns on the surface that merit discussion, the overall effect of this section would likely produce some unintended consequences.

By eliminating the ability to respond directly to feedback, agency staff is not given the opportunity to solve many of the reported issues. This ability to interact directly with the public is a critical step in ensuring citizen satisfaction.

A few meaningful revisions to the bill would ensure that sufficient information is collected to make truly transformative changes. Ideas for consideration would include:

·    Replace the word “anonymous” with “confidential” as defined in US Government Code Title 18 to prohibit sensitive citizen data from being printed, published or divulged by anyone employed or contracting with the federal government.

·    Create agency-wide data access policies to ensure that access to information is limited based on the staff’s role in providing assistance, addressing issues, or gathering detailed information.

·    Provide citizens the choice to opt out of receiving requests for feedback.

Considering ideas such as these above would allow agencies to engage in a dialogue with citizens in an effort to enhance their experience while providing the assurance that their personal information is only being used for this explicit purpose. Many citizens already feel like nameless entities when dealing with federal agencies. Funneling their anonymous feedback into a database, mirrors that sentiment by treating them as faceless data points. Citizens need to know their government is listening and responding to their concerns.

Agencies must demonstrate empathy for their citizens and that they are invested in the overall outcome of the services they deliver. This is critical to ensuring citizen satisfaction and overall mission success.  One government executive said at a recent citizen engagement roundtable: “Business process re-engineering is a huge part of this, identifying the root cause. If I told you about a problem yesterday, if you continue to do it, then you’re not listening. If we begin to show that we are engaged, we are changing, you’ll see their expectations and satisfaction are off the charts.”

If you’re interested in learning more about how Medallia can work with your agency or if you’ve found these observations worthwhile, meet us at Forrester’s CXDC 2017.