Good customer experience starts at the very first interaction with a customer, which is why the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently officially launched its AskUSDA Contact Center program to support inquiries via web, phone, chat, or email. AskUSDA serves as the one “front door” to help deliver a centralized contact center experience, helping customers get consistent and streamlined information.
USDA, a large agency (100,000 employees, nearly 4,500 locations, 29 sub-agencies and offices), affects every person in the United States, and hundreds of millions around the world. But customers and employees alike struggled to navigate the dozens of phone numbers, without a chat function or online self-service platform.
GSA’s Centers of Excellence (CoE) program partnered with USDA in 2018. As part of its contact center and customer experience work, the team — employees from both agencies and industry partners — worked to disentangle the web of agencies, programs, and services that was hindering collaboration and blocking access to services. In the process, the team uncovered opportunities.
The contact center discovery work helped connect a disjointed knowledge base through research, roadmapping and service blueprinting (PDF, 1 MB). This connection helped free up the agents’ time so they could focus on more complicated requests, and answer customers’ simpler questions faster.
The team then created the infrastructure and connected tools and systems to create the contact center AskUSDA. Now, USDA can view data, insights, and trends in real-time and make informed, data-driven decisions.
“AskUSDA has helped us improve the customer experience we offer and that’s helped drive the success of the website,” said Simchah Suveyke-Bogin, USDA’s Chief of Customer Experience. “It’s been a rewarding experience that’s resulted in being able to seamlessly answer tens of thousands of citizen inquiries.”
The customer experience team’s communications audit identified 748 services offered and 903 unique customer archetypes. These discovery findings influenced their primary research with employees and customers.
In partnership with the Department’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), USDA’s Office of Customer Experience (OCX) used this information, including a Final Insights Report, to better understand its customers and services. They created a pilot program that successfully answered 93,000 citizen inquiries and led to 1.4 million knowledge article page views on the AskUSDA website.
We congratulate the entire USDA team, including employees and contractors. Their hard work researching and building AskUSDA is giving their customers an easier way to reach them.