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Time to Rebuild Trust in Government by Putting People First

How many times has a cus­tomer asked you about some­thing that’s right there on the home­page of your agency’s web­site? What about those emails and phone calls you keep receiv­ing from peo­ple who are frus­trat­ed with your online ser­vices? And what about the peo­ple you’re not hear­ing from who might false­ly con­clude that they are not eli­gi­ble for your ser­vices because they are writ­ten in jar­gon, and dif­fi­cult to understand?

Illustration of a father working on the floor of his apartment with his kids and a laptop

These are the types of problems that the new Executive Orderon, “Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government,” aims to tackle.

What is the new Executive Order Mandating That Government Agencies Do?

From simple daily tasks, visits to public lands, or big milestones like starting a business or retiring — this Executive Order (EO) aims to make it easier for the public to accomplish all types of tasks and reduce the time burden they spend filling out administrative forms. This new EO engages, “the American people in the design and improvement of Federal Government programs, processes, and services” through a process called Human-Centered Design (HCD).

What is Human-Centered Design and How Will that Help Our Agency Reach Our Customer?

Human-Centered Design begins with discovery and conducting research with the people using a website, accessing a service, or interacting with a government agency. As HCD experts, we uncover the pain points and where the system isn’t working – like when it feels impossible to update an address - and then design and develop a solution.

We don’t stop there!

Once we have a prototyped solution we evaluate it with more research with customers - the actual people using your digital tools to access information, a service, or benefit. We refine the solution based on this feedback and launch with a plan for managing future improvements and the changing needs of the people we serve. The Executive Order outlines some major challenges that government agencies will have to untangle to provide the level of service the public expects but doesn’t always get.

How Can Government Agencies Work Together to Make Their Digital Products Easier to Navigate and More Useful?

This EO outlines the challenges people face as they navigate across agencies to access services. “Customers often navigate services across multiple agencies in specific moments of need, such as when they are seeking financing for their businesses or experiencing food insecurity. In such situations, relevant agencies should coordinate their service delivery to achieve an integrated experience that meets customer needs through the exchange of data with appropriate privacy protections.”

Government coordination may require working across agencies at the same level - like Sound Transit did when they updated their ticket vending machines or the Department of Energy when they designed the National Geothermal Data System. And sometimes, this will require working across local, State and Federal agencies to deliver services more seamlessly to people.

Accessibility and Equity

Another part of providing more human-centered services that the Executive Order calls out is, “ensuring the accessibility of services for customers with disabilities and those with limited English proficiency.” Human-Centered Design and accessibility go together.

Accessibility guidelines and standards provide a base for assessing and measuring accessibility. Then, the HCD research and discovery process connects with your customers with disabilities and validates that your website or product meets their actual needs. Whether you are looking for ways to make an existing website or product more accessible to people with disabilities, or you are building something new from the ground up, including accessibility throughout your process will create a more usable and useful experience that vastly improves your services to your customers, and reduces the risk of expensive remediation.

Likewise, the Order explicitly cites the need for access for people with limited English proficiency and later calls to mind “equity for communities that face inequitable barriers to service access.” While these represent distinct opportunities to better serve your clients, training on Writing for the Web’s best practices will help your writers create content that is in plain language and easier for more people to read. Research with your customers can uncover ways to make your services more understandable to your customers, better serve their needs, and take the guess work out of creating a better customer experience.

We aren’t saying these challenges are easy to tackle, or that they will be resolved in one go. We are proud of the resolve it takes to bring them to the forefront and the innovation that will be put to work to improve service delivery for the public. Using an expert Human-Centered Design consultant can help your government agency achieve success in a more timely and efficient manner with less cost overall.