Three officials from Federal agency high-impact service providers discussed new and innovative ways their agencies are reimagining customer experience (CX) by harnessing emerging tech as they drive toward the far-reaching CX improvement goals set out in President Biden’s executive order issued late last year.

At a Federal News Network event on Oct. 13, Feds leading the fight for better customer service at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and the Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) explained how they are leveraging emerging technologies – like machine learning and artificial intelligence – to ensure travelers, farmers, and everyone in between can receive more efficient and secure services.

TSA has launched a facial recognition pilot program at major international airports in both Atlanta and Detroit, according to the agency’s Customer Service Branch Manager, Nikki French.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, TSA was looking for ways to limit contact between screeners and the public, so the agency is in the beginning stages of testing the effectiveness of using AI to check travelers’ identities. However, French said, it’s still crucial to have a TSA agent helping citizens through the process to ensure they have a positive experience.

“If I’m not making that step to greet you and walk you through the process, it can be more frustrating. But those machines are also really helpful,” French said. “It improves our security – which is obviously TSA’s number one mission. We’ve got to do that in a way where we’re mixing the technology advancements, but also improving the soft skills of the officers. So, we have to take a combined approach.”

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USDA Chief Customer Experience Officer Simchah Suveyke-Bogin, said that good CX does not always have to take a digital approach. With such a large agency like the USDA, she said, there is going to be a diverse group of people requesting services and wanting use varying levels of technology.

She said her office is continuously doing temperature checks through paper-based mail, phone calls, or in person. USDA meets the customer where they are at, Suveyke-Bogin said. The agency then collects data on customers and figures out how to move forward to continue to offer effective and secure services.

“Technology improvement doesn’t always have to be the outcome. It first starts with the research, understanding what the problems are, and sometimes we can blend the outcome,” she said. “It can be a combination of tech [or] it can be a combination of process improvements.”

Part of that blend is having good employees capable of offering good customer experience.

HUD is focusing heavily on ensuring their employees have a good experience internally, so they can give their external customers the best experience possible as well.

“Do they have the IT tools that they need to do their job? We’re actively looking at all the solutions . . . to figure out where we can make the employee workforce experience a little bit easier,” said Amber Chaudhry, customer experience lead at HUD.

“During the height of the pandemic, we went from having tens of thousands of calls to tens of millions of calls, and sometimes solutions look like as simple as having [customer relationship management] tools to route the customer inquiry into the right queue for employees so that they could totally focus on answering those inquiries as fast as possible,” she said.

The conversation at the Oct. 13 event wrapped up with the idea that everything is connected – the agency’s mission, the individual customer, and the employees all interact to achieve one goal.

“[We’re] showing that connection between [the employees] and the customers and how they help that journey take place, or how they help that person achieve their goal with the service,” Suveyke-Bogin said. “Everything we’re doing has a purpose, and everything we’re doing matters to our employees and customers.”

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.