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Sites Shares Its Path to Improve the Customer Experience

As the product manager of Sites, my job is to make sure that our service delivers what we offer: provide an easy, fast and cost‐effective solution for federal agencies that want to create a secure government website to reach the public.

With 40 websites that are currently live or in active development, our program is constantly evolving. Our roadmap is filled with milestones designed to improve our service, address our customers’ needs, and keep our platform up to date. How do we create this road map? By analyzing the Customer Experience.

I’m not going to suggest that we have mastered the customer experience. Quite the contrary, once you get started you’ll see that much like your agile releases this too is fast-moving series of iterations. However, I’ll share with you our 3 down-and-dirty steps to CX that can help anyone get started.

3 Steps to Start

  • Numbers. I’m a spreadsheet person, so gathering numbers is usually how I start every project. When I first started working on Sites, I began plotting every piece of data that allowed me to quantify our interaction with customers.With just a few simple formulas, my spreadsheets showed me basic information like how many days it took us to spin up a new instance, the average length of time that it took our clients to develop their sites, and how many tickets were open. This information helped me establish a baseline and ask the following questions:
    • What processes can be improved, simplified or eliminated?
    • What steps could be done in less time?
    • What were the inefficiencies and bottlenecks?
    • Could we automatize any steps?
    • What were our clients finding difficult or time consuming?
    • What could we do to anticipate those issues?
  • Stories. Listening to customers seems like an easy task, but personally I find that it’s more challenging than tracking numbers. Many times we fall for outsmarting that one unreplicatable error instead of addressing everyday needs. I was guilty of doing exactly that. I was meticulously tracking each ticket and not even writing down the questions that I could answer from the top of my head. I would still be doing that if it weren’t for a team meeting where someone asked me what was the most common question that I got. That’s when it dawned on me that I was ignoring a pretty important request (how do I launch my site?) because it wasn’t a ticket. After some group brainstorming, we decided to create a Sites “Getting Started” dashboard that included the “Launch” button front and center as well as other frequently used functionalities. Since then I’ve learned to ask the following:
    • What are the tasks that every one of our customers must do?
    • How easy are those tasks?
    • Do we provide instructions?
    • Are the instructions easy to find and to follow?
    • Are we finding ways to share the common experiences of our customers?
    • Are we really listening to our customers?
    • Are we as a team sharing that information?

    Partial screenshot of Sites' Getting Started dashboard, created to address customers' needs.
  • <li style="margin-bottom: 15px">
      <b>Repeat. </b>Yes, like with shampoo. Just because you think that you’ve found a way to improve the customer experience, it doesn’t mean you really have accomplished it. Getting the word out is always challenging—as is changing processes and routines. Sometimes customers missed your newsletter or email, or when they received it, they didn’t need that information. Other times, the proposed solution doesn’t seem as easy as the previous one or the customer prefers their old way of doing things. These are some questions to help you with this part of the process: <ul>
        <li style="margin-top: 15px">
          How do you plan to announce an improvement or enhancement to your customers?
        </li>
        <li>
          Do you have more than one method of communicating this to your customers?
        </li>
        <li>
          Do new and existing customers have a way to search or find this information at a later date?
        </li>
        <li>
          How do you plan to monitor the impact?
        </li>
        <li>
          What new numbers do you need to track?
        </li>
        <li style="margin-bottom: 15px">
          What new stories do you need to listen to?
        </li>
      </ul>
    </li></ol> 
    
    <p>
      These are just the first three steps to get you started down your own CX path. Along the way you’ll  find your own set of challenges and create your own checklist of questions. In any case, you’re not alone as we are all trying to make sense of and improve the customer experience in government.
    </p>
    
    <p>
      <i><a href="https://sites.usa.gov/">Sites</a> provides a CMS and hosting service for federal agencies. You can <a href="mailto:sitessupport@gsa.gov">email Sites</a> for more information.<br /> </i>
    </p>
    

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