Obama Needs A Citizen Experience Officer

Bruce Nussbaum’s excellent Business Week blog has a post called Letter to President-Elect Obama: Here’s How To Build Your Innovation Dream Team. It recommends candidates for roles in Obama’s administration and also identifies a couple of new roles: Chief Innovation Officer and Creativity Advisory Board. 

I agree with Nussbaum. President-Elect Obama needs to make significant changes in the way government operates and should infuse innovation and design thinking into his administration. But I would also propose another position: Citizen Experience Officer

I often advise large organizations (banks. retailers, telcos, etc.) to put an executive in charge of their customer experience efforts; creating a position like Chief Customer Officer if they are committed to making improvements. These execs motivate, coordinate, and accelerate the focus on customers across an organization. 

If President-Elect Obama wants to significantly improve the relationship between the US government and the US people, then a Citizen Experience Officer (the public sector version of a Chief Customer Officer) makes a lot of sense. What would a Citizen Experience Officer do? As the rest of the Cabinet overhauls governmental policies, this person can help make the government easier to work with, one interaction at a time.

In particular, a Citizen Experience Officer could:

  • Establish a comprehensive Voice-Of-The-Citizen program to make sure that the needs of citizens are driving the design of all interactions and are incorporated in decision making.
  • Improve the usability of federal government Websites and other self-service channels like kiosks and phone self-service to lower the cost of interactions.
  • Make all government communications (instructions, etc.) easier to understand so that government will become more accessible.
  • Redesign processes to make them more citizen-friendly and to simplify interactions with government agencies.
  • Develop and execute a communications and training plan for government employees to infuse a citizen-centric focus across all government organizations.
  • Share best practices for citizen-centricity across federal agencies and departments.

The bottom line: It’s not audacity to hope for better government experiences

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I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

5 thoughts on “Obama Needs A Citizen Experience Officer”

  1. I think that a Voice-Of-The-Citizen program is a serious indictment of a democracy. Executives in companies need VOC programs to inject customer perspectives into their shareholder-focused (or employee-focused) organizations. But if a government isn’t inclined to be responsive to the needs of the electorate that put it there, will a Chief Citizen Experience Officer with a VOC program make a difference?

    Perhaps the CCEO needs to focus on dismantling VOL programs (Voice-Of-The-Lobbyist).

  2. Jonathan: I don’t see the need for a Citizen Experience Officer as an indictment of democracy. Maybe in some idealistic way we’d like the government to focus every action on the needs of citizens, but that’s not how any large organization works; and the government is a VERY LARGE organization. As such, the government is subject to the same 6 laws of customer experience as other large organizations, like people are inherently self-centered and employees do what is measured, incented, and celebrated. I’d keep the Citizen Experience Officer away from overall policies and politics (the domain of lobbyists) and have him/her focus on how the government interacts with citizens.

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