The White House requires federal agencies to “provide a modern, streamlined, and responsive customer experience across government, comparable to leading private sector organizations.” Unfortunately, results from Forrester’s 2019 US federal Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) show that federal CX remains weak and uneven. Read our full report for complete results.

The 15 US federal agencies and programs that we rated in this year’s CX Index earned an average score of 59.7 out of 100 (see first figure). That score, which is unchanged from the previous three years, falls smack in the middle of the “poor” category and 11 points below the private sector average of 70.8. Only one organization — the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) — improved this year. The number of agencies that improved has declined every year since we began tracking federal CX: Five agencies improved in 2016, four in 2017, and two in 2018.

A closer look reveals that Washington has:

  • Scores that are mostly poor or very poor. A sobering 80% of federal agencies had scores that fell into the lowest two categories of the CX Index (see second figure). That’s in contrast to the private sector, in which only 14% of brands landed in the bottom two categories.
  • More of the worst performers than any private sector industry. Four of the six organizations in the very poor category — and about one-third of the bottom 5% of the entire US CX Index — were federal agencies. Only airlines came close to matching this level of underperformance.
  • Uneven quality. The 27.4-point difference between the scores of the National Park Service (NPS) at the top of the federal CX Index and at the bottom was six points wider than the spread in the most diverse private sector industry — and 13.6 points wider than the private sector industry average.
  • One modest gainer and two small losers. The TSA showed a modest 3.1-point improvement in CX Index score. This makes it one of only three organizations in the entire US CX Index to improve three times since the current version of our study began in 2015. On the other hand, the NPS dropped by 2.9 points and the US Postal Service lost 2.5 points.

Scorecard of all US Federal Agencies In The CX Index


Distribution Of Scores In The CX Index

CX Struggles Harm Mission Performance

The quality of an agency’s CX impacts customer behaviors, which in turn affect that agency’s ability to accomplish its mission. Customers who face today’s poor federal CX don’t:

  • Comply with directives and advice. For every one-point increase in an agency’s CX Index score, 1.9% more customers will do what the organization asks of them. As a result of poor federal CX, just 59% of federal customers said that they do what agencies require.
  • Inquire for official information. When a federal agency’s CX Index score rises by one point, 2.4% more customers are likely to seek its authoritative advice or expertise. Unfortunately, weak federal CX motivates only 46% of customers to seek out authoritative information from the federal organizations that they interact with.
  • Apply for optional benefits and services. For each one-point gain in an agency’s CX Index score, 2.8% more customers are willing to sign up for benefits and services that aren’t mandatory. However, federal CX problems leave only 33% of customers willing to sign up for optional offerings.
  • Speak well of federal agencies. As a federal agency’s CX Index score improves by one point, 4.5% more customers will say positive things about the organization. Regrettably, only 48% of customers are willing to say positive things about their interactions with federal agencies.
  • Trust agencies. Each time a federal agency’s CX Index score rises by one point, 2.8% more customers will trust the organization. Weak federal CX leaves only 44% of customers trusting the agencies that they interact with.
  • Forgive agencies that make mistakes. For every one-point increase in an agency’s CX Index score, 2.7% more customers are willing to forgive the agency when it makes mistakes. However, the current federal experience leaves just 41% of customers willing to forgive agencies for a slip-up.


Federal Agencies Fail On The Key Drivers Of CX Quality

The reason for this stagnation is simple: Agencies fail on the critical elements that make experiences great for customers. Forrester studied the impact of 47 drivers on the quality of federal CX, then grouped them into seven thematic categories. Although the impact of each driver category varies across agencies, three stand out as the most influential overall: services, customer service, and showing respect. Unfortunately, federal agencies:

  • Make services too difficult. Only 47% of federal customers say that it is easy to go through the process of obtaining benefits or information. That’s a two-percentage-point rise year over year but still only about the same as the percentage of airline customers who enjoy the in-flight experience.
  • Struggle with customer service. A mere 48% of federal customers agreed that they could get help quickly when they needed it, a two-percentage-point gain from 2018. It’s also 10 percentage points worse than the health insurance and airline industries, which lag the rest of the private sector.
  • Don’t make customers feel respected. Just 47% of federal customers say that they feel respected — a one-percentage-point gain year over year. As a result, federal customers now feel that they are respected equally by federal agencies and airlines.

Federal agencies that want to improve their CX quickly and efficiently must ground their efforts in driver analysis and prioritize parts of the experience that will contribute the most to mission success. Forrester’s CX Index can help because it’s more than just a score: It’s a framework that measures how agencies perform on 47 drivers of CX and pinpoints the handful of drivers that, when improved, will boost mission performance the most.

To learn more about the specific drivers of a great customer experience for your agency and how Forrester can help you reap the benefits of this insight, send an email with your questions to