The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is currently piloting customer experience (CX) courses within its agency for its new Customer Experience Institute (CXi), a VA official said at a June 22 FCW and Carahsoft event.

Barbara Morton, deputy chief veterans experience officer at the Veterans Experience Office (VEO), said that the new institute was created in an effort to scale CX efforts across the department and upskill its workforce to be “human-centered design experts.”

“We’re a relatively small shop in the VA obviously, a couple 100 people,” Morton said of the VEO. “In CX world, we’re kind of a large shop, but what we want to do is we want to be able to scale the practice of human-centered design, not just knowing it, but practicing it and operationalizing it.”

“So, we’re creating what’s called the VA Customer Experience Institute,” she continued. “We’re piloting some courses right now to be able to teach our brothers and sisters in VA – and hopefully someday outside of VA as well – how to practice human-centered design to solve problems at a local level.”

Morton explained that the VA has come a long way in its CX efforts and building a workforce centered on human-centered design is crucial.

For example, she said in the 2015-2016 timeframe, VEO could not get designers classified in the VA. The designers’ position descriptions were classified as “IT specialists,” according to Morton, when really designers were not necessarily IT specialists, but human-design experts.

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“We had to pivot at that time,” Morton said. “The Lab at the Office of Personnel Management has been a trailblazer in this space, whereby they’ve built a cadre of, and a program of, human-centered design experts. So, we tapped into that partnership and brought some of those folks on for our early years until our processes matured well enough to be able to classify designers.”

Morton said President Biden’s customer experience (CX) executive order (EO) has only validated VEO’s work and new institute with its “stamp of approval.”

“We’ve got an incredibly motivated, cross-agency team, and certainly CX champions across government are just excited for this work to dive in,” she said.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.