Federal agencies have increasingly adopted a human-centered approach to IT modernization to improve customer experience across the Federal government, and a key contributor to those efforts are the fruits of public-private partnerships.

During a recent MeriTalk webinar, Federal and industry experts discussed how public-private partnerships have helped improve customer experience across the Federal government.

Jason Shaffer, a business development expert with Amazon Web Services (AWS), said that industry will ensure Federal agencies can smoothly implement the technology end of IT modernization so that government can focus on what is important – the mission and delivering improved customer experience.

For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many Federal agencies began to move to the cloud, and industry players like AWS helped in that effort by simplifying an undifferentiated heavy lift.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) took advantage of its industry partnership to leverage modernized IT capabilities to stand up two particularly important initiatives. The first was in 2021 when the agency had six weeks to roll out a national vaccination hotline. And the second was in 2022 when the CDC again had limited time to roll out hotline support for COVID-19 test kits.

The CDC collaborated with industry partners – like Maximus – to deliver a critical service and address the needs of the public, said Angeline Boey, CDC-INFO Operations Lead.

She said rolling out those two initiatives took a lot of collaboration “to come up with solutions very quickly that could serve the customer’s needs and deal with ever-changing guidelines.”

“We held weekly committee meetings where we set the goals and roadmap for what we wanted to accomplish … we were all on the same page, going at the same pace, and had a shared project plan and priorities,” Boey said. “It was nearly an equal partnership and a hands-on process to make that work well. And in the end, we saw great customer service and satisfaction scores.”

Andy Beamon, senior vice president of Total Experience Solution at Maximus, echoed Boey’s comments, explaining that those kinds of public-private partnerships make the industry organizations responsible for “bringing the tech that allows Federal agencies to deliver services, while Federal agencies focus on the mission.”

Improved customer experience within the Federal government has become a priority for many agencies following President Biden’s Dec 2021 executive order (EO) on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government. The EO seeks to streamline and modernize government services that directly affect Americans, such as claiming retirement benefits, renewing passports, and filing taxes.

According to Boey, for Federal agencies the EO has led to more empowered employees who think a little bit more outside the box when considering service delivery. They also feel more confident and valued in providing feedback to agency leaders.

To improve on its customer experience – and simultaneously employee experience – the CDC started a Moving Forward initiative, where employees and the public offer suggestions to the agency on how to improve service delivery.

“[We took] suggestions from employees and public feedback, and examined internally what we can do to improve, whether that’s data collection, digital channels, our communication, or how we train the workforce,” Boey said. “All these are steps in the right direction, and I think it makes for more meaningful work.”

For industry organizations looking to partner with Federal agencies, the EO has increased transparency into what Federal agencies need to meet the customer service mission.

The EO directs that Federal agencies are responsible for disclosing publicly the initiatives and challenges associated with delivering improved services. This factor, according to Shaffer, paints a clear picture for industry on the services and capabilities they have available to offer.

In addition to partnerships with industry, Boey explained that in trying to meet the goals set forth by the EO, Federal agencies need to establish and bring together the right people within their workforce to set up the right workforce culture of customer experience.

“We have a talented staff that helped set up that culture of constant improvement, listening to the frontline staff on their feedback on what was missing, what the gaps in our customer service were,” Boey said.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.