Ten months after President Biden released his executive order for government to improve customer experience, a new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) argues that Federal agencies are “still doing a poor job of measuring satisfaction, and they are conspicuously lagging in offering digital services.”

In the report, ITIF examines “high-impact service providers” (HISPs) within the Federal government. This designation includes agencies that have large customer bases or provide vital services, such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Social Security Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The report says that HISPs are insufficiently measuring customer satisfaction with their digital services, and don’t have a clear method to incorporate feedback.

“You can’t improve what you’re not measuring, and many of the government’s high-impact service providers aren’t measuring customers’ experience with digital channels well enough, if they’re measuring at all,” said Eric Egan, a policy fellow for digital government at ITIF.

“To meaningfully improve customer experience, agencies need to accelerate their adoption of digital services, because customers today expect to be able to do almost everything with computers and smartphones,” he said.

“The next step is to systematically capture customer feedback through interactions with websites and mobile applications,” he said. “The goal should be to have a digital feedback loop that drives continuous improvement and innovation.”

The report notes that despite legislative efforts from Congress and executive guidance from White House administrations, HISP adoption of “best-in-class digital services” is too low. Specifically, Federal websites and apps offer inconsistent and varying user experiences that are generally worse than that of the private sector. In addition to HISPs not complying with existing requirements or taking advantage of available resources and technology, ITIF also blamed regulatory barriers, poor organizational processes, and limited access to funding for the lack of advancement.

To help HISPs improve, ITIF said need to “be held accountable to comply with existing requirements for digital experiences and commit to gathering more customer feedback data that informs improvements to digital channels.”

Looking toward other factors within the Federal government, ITIF said that Congress should remove regulatory and procurement barriers that hamstring digital transformation, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should provide improved oversight and funding to support digital customer experience.

ITIF offered six recommendations:

  • The Government Accountability Office should investigate HISP compliance with requirements of 21st Century IDEA. Despite being passed in 2018, HISPs have failed to meet many of the law’s requirements, negatively impacting customer satisfaction. ITIF argues that “a GAO investigation and corresponding report would highlight these shortcomings and provide HISPs with greater incentive to accelerate adoption of digital services that have been proven to improve overall customer experience.”
  • The General Service Administration’s (GSA) IT Modernization Center of Excellence for Customer Experience and OMB should lead a one-time task force of commercial partners, customer experience experts and service designers from the Federal government, and customer end users to evaluate HISP digital platforms from a customer experience lens and help HISPs implement organizational best practices.
  • OMB should update the annual President’s Management Agenda Customer Experience Action Plan and Capacity Assessment templates to require more thorough reporting on the progress of digital services in HISPs. Specifically, ITIF said that reporting measures should demonstrate “how HISP digital services improve customer satisfaction and reduce administrative burdens and costs.”
  • HISPs should improve customer research data collection by integrating feedback surveys across their high-use, public-facing digital channels, if they haven’t already, and incorporating existing data from the Federal Digital Analytics Program.
  • Congress should continue to reform regulatory frameworks that limit the growth of digital services in Federal government, starting with passing the Advancing Government Innovation with Leading-Edge (AGILE) Procurement Act. ITIF argues that procuring solutions and working with contractors is a notoriously complicated and frustrating process for Federal agencies. ITIF stressed that accessing industry-vetted software, IT solutions, and expertise needs to be an available avenue for HISPs, and said that the process needs to be faster and better.
  • OMB should earmark Technology Modernization Fund money to enhance customer-facing digital services specifically for HISPs. ITIF said that while OMB announced in June 2022 that $100 million of the nearer-term funds from the TMF will be applied to customer experience projects, this funding should be earmarked explicitly for HISPs.
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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.