Federal CIO Clare Martorana today previewed the goals of ongoing efforts and forthcoming direction from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on improving customer/citizen experience (CX) with the Federal government, and set the bar high for expectations for service improvements that will follow.

Speaking on September 15 at a CX-themed event organized by ACT-IAC, Martorana said she welcomed the opportunity to talk about “basically my favorite topic – customer experience.”

Drawing on customer experience-centric themes from previous public speeches since she became Federal CIO earlier this year, Martorana emphasized that “every interaction that we have with the public is an opportunity for us to demonstrate that government understands and is able to meet our customers’ needs.”

She set lofty goals for the government in that pursuit.

“My vision is that the Federal government will set new standards for customer experience, rivaling our country’s most famous consumer brands,” Martorana said. “CIOs will lead the way, partnering with CISOs and chief acquisition officers, [and] chief privacy officers, building out more modern IT systems, building security, trust and safety into every interaction, designing our tools and services with the public in mind, and using data to drive all of our decisions.”

“The American public deserves to have a seamless experience when they interact with their government,” she continued. “This means they should expect to provide information to the government once – no matter where they are interacting with different agencies – and basic online experiences like signing in and managing your benefits should really be simple and easy

to understand.”

Policy Directions

On the Federal policy front, Martorana said that the Biden-Harris administration is “committed to the successful implementation” of the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act. The law, dating from 2018, requires that executive agencies transition from paper-based to web-based forms in order to modernize services that government provides to citizens.

She said that “work is underway to assess the full scope” of efforts to implement the law, and added, “we are committed to issuing guidance” on the issue through an updated Circular A-11 document.  OMB earlier this month updated the circular to provide a new and expanded definition for customer experience – one that includes equity and designates CX as a priority instead of a nice-to-have.

Through that new guidance, “OMB is continued to work to establish a CX-mindful culture across Federal government services to provide structure, and consistency around how agencies and programs approach” performance targets, she said.

Martorana said OMB was focusing in particular on “high-impact customer-facing services” by working with 33 providers of those services “to ensure that they’re making progress in growing CX program maturity and applying best practices.”

“We are working now to understand how technology can be better utilized” to help the providers of high-impact and volume services CX services to deliver better and faster services, she said.

Price of Failure

Martorana also warned of the consequences of failing to deliver an improved customer experience to citizens.

“Customers expect our government services to be as easy to use as what they have become familiar with in their daily lives,” she said. “When we don’t meet their expectations, it actually undermines their trust in government.”

“When Americans spend hours just to fill out an online form which doesn’t work on their phone, or they don’t have internet access, or if they do and the site is not accessible … they feel that the government doesn’t serve them,” she said.

“We have to meet our customers where they are, and provide customer experience solutions that meet their needs,” Martorana said. “That means we take a digital-first approach,” but the larger goal is “an omnichannel customer experience to really focus on meeting our customers where they are, and using user-centered, iterative, outcome-driven processes for building technology that leads to better, more useful technology, sometimes for a lot less money,” she said.

DEIA Drive

Martorana also emphasized the Federal government’s obligation to be a “model for diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, where all employees are treated with dignity and respect.”

On the tech front, “when it comes to government websites and digital products, we must stay laser-focused on accessibility” for “users from all walks of life, with all types of abilities,” especially when it comes to the ability to use Federal websites.

“That means we need to take seriously section 508 accessibility standards when we design, digital experiences,” she said. “It has to be as important as designing security into all of our products.”

Read More About
More Topics
John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.