Enhancing CX Initiatives Within a Bureaucracy? Learn How to Leverage Opportunities

When it comes to enhancing customer experience across your organization, how do you know if your efforts are successful? In this conversation that we’re replaying:  Barbara C. Morton, Deputy Chief Veterans Experience Officer at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, shares some of the strategies and tactics that she and her team have employed in order to improve the CX within a government organization.

As many of us know, navigating government websites and customer service can often be a time-consuming and confusing process, and Barbara, who had been with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for over 14 years, understood that there were challenges with the experience that needed to be addressed.

In this interview, Barbara shares how she has been able to work within the department to improve the website and overall customer experience for the range of customers who interact with the Veterans Affairs. She also explains how she’s been able to rally her internal team to support this transformation.

Learn How to Work Within Your System and Leverage Opportunities

As many of us know, when it comes to creating transformation within a government agency, there is plenty of bureaucracy involved, which Barbara says can sometimes “get in the way of actually getting in touch with the human side and during the right thing.” But Barbara also acknowledges the benefits of bureaucracy, which offers “valid checks and balances to protect against abuse of power, appearance of impropriety, all these all these virtues that are important.” So, as a lawyer and customer advocate, this propelled her to think further about how experience can coexist with bureaucracy and not become an afterthought.

Barbara shares that she was able to work with their office of enterprise integration, which leads the agency-wide effort to bake in the veterans experience story-map, to make it a core part of the experience strategy. During this transformation process, she realized it was a great opportunity to hardwire customer experience principles as part of their core values and characteristics.

Hardwire customer experience principles as part of your core values and characteristics. @DeptVetAffairs #customerexperience Share on X

Determine Your Measures of Success

While Barbara was integrating more customer-focused principles within the Department of Veterans Affairs, she explains that she had to determine what the measures of success would be. She shares that trust is their most important currency, and it has been a brand and experience metric for the past 5-6 years; it’s a metric they still measure against. Barbara and her team send a yearly questionnaire to veterans who receive care from the VA asking if they “trust the VA to fulfill its country’s commitment to veterans” and shares that the trust score has elevated to a record high of around 80%, up from the high of around 55% a few years ago.

According to Barbara, the ability to increase this score comes from the work that was done to create experiences that accommodate the various customers that the Department of Veterans Affairs serves. It was important that they recognized they had a range of customers who weren’t necessarily veterans and developed a process to better engage them. She shares that they conducted extensive improvements to the website which incorporates a human centered design to improve navigation and the overall look of the site.

Don’t Fight the Power Core

I’ve said this time and time again in these podcast interviews—you need to know who your power core is. Barbara shares that in the process of working within the bureaucracy to enhance the customer experience, she had to work with internal teams that held decision making powers. She had to develop a relationship with the politicians, organization team members, and others, in order to create a cohesive process to get the best results for her process. Barbara saw from the experience of others, that trying to beat down the bureaucracy will not help the cause and would only lead to frustration. She shares that you have to learn how to complement one another and get the ball moving forward that way.

Don't fight the bureaucracy, develop relationships, and learn how to create a cohesive process to get the best results for your process. @DeptVetAffairs #customerexperience Share on X

You can revisit show notes from the first airing of the episode here.

About Barbara C. Morton


Barbara C. Morton serves the Department of Veterans Affairs as the Deputy Chief Veterans Experience Officer in the Veterans Experience Office.  In this role Barbara is responsible for building a lasting customer experience capability at VA and sharing best practices across sister Federal Agencies.

She received the Gears of Government President’s Award (2019) and the Service to the Citizen Award (2019) for her role in transforming VA’s capabilities to provide Veterans with an excellent customer experience.

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