Veteran Affairs Making the Customer Its Center of Focus
Published: May 23, 2019
In the wake of being named the federal government’s most ineffective federal agency in Gallup’s annual public opinion poll, VA announces a new commitment to customer service.
VA recently codified a commitment to customer service in its Code of Federal Regulations, the backbone of the department’s policies and practices. Specifically, 38 CFR was modified to add customer service principles and a requirement to measure customer experience. The current section entitled, “VA Core Values and Characteristics,” will be renamed “Core Values, Characteristics and Customer Experience Principles of the Department.”
This change supports VA’s efforts to sustain an organizational commitment and focus on the customer. VA’s modernization efforts center on providing better services and experiences for veterans, families and caregivers. The Federal Register announcement of the CFR change states, “Codifying these principles will ensure that they receive the proper emphasis at all levels within VA, are clearly understood by the workforce, and, most importantly, become an enduring part of the VA culture.”
VA is centralizing customer experience around three pillars:
- Ease - VA will make access to VA care, benefits, and memorial services smooth and easy.
- Effectiveness - VA will deliver care, benefits and memorial services to the customer’s satisfaction.
- Emotion - VA will deliver care, benefits, and memorial services in a manner that makes customers feel honored and valued in their interactions with VA.
VA is already working on a number of efforts to improve the customer experience (CX), including its Lighthouse initiative which has created a commercial gateway for the VA partners to use VA’s APIs for mobile applications and programs. Lighthouse encourages developers to create applications that release bottlenecks for processing claims and transferring health data, which dramatically improves the user experience.
The most visible improvement in CX thus far has been the launch of VA.gov, which simplified and consolidated a number of VA websites into one that is much easier to use and understand. Online health applications increased 81% and customer satisfaction increased 16% within the first three months of its launch. VA estimates it saved nearly $55 million in call center costs due to the reduction in incoming calls.
Even though Gallup’s recent poll showed American’s viewed VA’s performance as mostly negative out of 13 high profile agencies, it also showed positive momentum in VA’s ranking. The VA has consistently ranked last on Gallup’s list each year it has been measured, with its worst rating of only 29% of respondents ranking the department with an excellent/good score after reports of veterans dying due to long waits for medical care at VA hospitals. Although VA still remains last on the list, this year the score has improved with 39% of Americans surveyed rating VA as doing an excellent or good job.
Contactor should look for opportunities to assist VA in its efforts to improve CX potentially in the areas of website redesign or consolidation, customer service automation, and overall IT modernization efforts.