By Russ Unger, Chief Experience Officer & Brad Nunnally, Senior Director of User Experience
The establishment of the new “customer experience” directorate within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is an exciting development that demonstrates DHS’s commitment to improving public interactions and enhancing the overall experience for its diverse range of customers. By focusing on customer experience across all touchpoints—not just the digital ones – DHS acknowledges the importance of providing efficient and user-friendly services to the public online and offline.
The mission and goal of the DHS Customer Experience directorate will directly impact and improve the quality of service and overall experience for the services DHS provide across Transportation Security Administration (TSA), U.S. Immigrations and Customers Enforcement (ICE), United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The directorate is aligned with the Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government which directly calls on the Secretary of Homeland Security to make improvements across DHS-provided services. Below is a summary of the Executive Order:
The Secretary of Homeland Security shall:
(i) test the use of innovative technologies at airport security checkpoints to reduce passenger wait times;
(ii) provide new opportunities for customers to connect with the Transportation Security Administration, including as appropriate, online chat, improved communication during additional screenings, and additional mechanisms to provide customer feedback;
(iii) design and deliver a streamlined, online disaster assistance application; and
(iv) work with States to proactively update existing rules and policies on supporting documentation needed for disaster assistance processes to reduce burden and increase accessibility.
The Increased and Ongoing Importance of Customer Experience
Over the last decade, the focus to improve customer experience on government services has become more prominent thanks to efforts spearheaded by the United States Digital Service, GSA’s 18F, and GSA’s Presidential Innovation Fellowship programs. Most recently, the GSA established its Customer Experience Center of Excellence to partner with government agencies to improve digital services, while establishing agency-level customer experience and design teams to continue to mature services quality.
The diversity of DHS’s customers and services poses a unique challenge to the department, one that sets it apart from other agencies. DHS’s frequent and varied interactions with members of the public include travelers, businesses, disaster survivors, immigrants, and law enforcement partners. DHS has touchpoints at every port, airport, train station, border crossing, and in the aftermath of national disasters. DHS also receives the majority of all Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests – more than any other agency across the entire government—necessitating a higher volume of public interactions. The establishment of a centralized directorate that oversees and supports CX initiatives across DHS is a critical step toward improving customer experiences.
Dana Chisnell: The Best Leader for the CX Directorate
Under the leadership of Dana Chisnell, the CX directorate is poised to make a significant impact. Ms. Chisnell is a highly regarded former U.S. Digital Service official, author, and recognized Human-Centered Design expert. She has a track-record of driving positive change at DHS by delivering more customer-focused services. External to DHS, Ms. Chisnell has been an industry-recognized advocate for Civic Design for her work on ballot design and improving elections service design. Her leadership will drive DHS into a new era of customer-focused initiatives and objectives that meet the needs of a diverse customer base.
Off to a Strong Start
DHS has already started improving customer experiences across its agencies, reducing the public’s burden by 20 million hours annually when responding to and/or seeking government services. It’s a testament to the effectiveness of DHS’s efforts thus far, as different communities within DHS have come together to embrace the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) and actively contribute to enhancing the customer experience. By creating online renewal forms and identifying innovative ways to reuse existing information, the department is demonstrating its commitment to optimizing resources and reducing burden on the user.
Recently, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) Director Ur M. Jaddou recognized an Intellibridge team with the Ingenuity & Innovation Award for their work on implementing a Digital A-File process to assist efforts at the Southwest Border. By successfully implementing and processing digital A-Files, the Customs and Border Patrol agents were able to reduce administrative and overhead burden, seeing significant cost savings related to processing and storing physical paperwork.
DHS’s commitment to streamlining and consolidating programs, such as trusted traveler programs, is an example of how the new directorate can address specific challenges across the agency. By taking an active role in optimizing the traveler journey, online and offline touchpoints, and the traveler experience, DHS is demonstrating its dedication to providing a seamless and efficient process for the public.