In December of 2021 the Biden Administration filed a motion to use a Voice of the Customer framework (VoC) to drive decision making and strategic planning processes when improving customer experience. This executive order aimed at reinstating trust in the government states the following regarding utilization of the VoC frame work: Further, the Federal Government’s management of its customer experience and service delivery should be driven fundamentally by the voice of the customer through human-centered design methodologies; empirical customer research; an understanding of behavioral science and user testing, especially for digital services; and other mechanisms of engagement.

The JG team first used the Voice of the Customer framework in 2021 when contracted by the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Montgomery County is one of the most diverse counties in the country, and was interested in applying this framework to initiate a qualitative study of its clients and service recipients to inform strategic planning processes and enhance customer experience.

Using the Voice of the Customer (VoC) framework and Customer Journey mapping, the JG team collaborated with the Director’s Office to design a study that through employment of a survey, client interviews, and focus groups as data collection would identify barriers to service access, recommendations that could remove these barriers, and discern other opportunities for improving the customer experience. The challenge of utilizing these tools was to remain sensitive to historical disparities within and disproportional exclusion of key demographic groups from social safety net programs within programs managed by the Office of Eligibility and Support Services.

Data collection
Type of data Type of collectionSample size
QuantitativeBrief customer experience survey430 complete surveys
QualitativeClient interviews and focus groups46 interviews, 6 focus groups
QualitativeHypothesis mapping session with staff2 two-hour mapping sessions
Types of data collected for the Montgomery County DHHS VoC study.

The biggest barrier associated with using VoC for the Montgomery County DHHS study was that the client pool has varied needs. Traditionally, VoC and Customer Journey mapping has been used in private sectors to highlight 3-5 needs that become apparent across a given population and these needs are visualized in a needs hierarchy map. The Montgomery County DHHS analysis poses a challenge to use when the needs hierarchy includes recipients of public benefits programs, which have inherently different needs than other customers within Montgomery County. Additionally, in prior uses of the Customer Journey, researchers did not account for the step of recertification as part of the customer journey, yet JG found this to be key to understanding the needs of the recipients of public benefit programs. JG added this step, and the following stages were used to understand each client’s journey within the Montgomery County DHHS: (1) learning, (2) compliance and eligibility, (3) redemption, (4) recertification, and (5) referral.

Going forward, the JG team is excited to apply the methodological innovations used in the Montgomery County DHHS study to the public sector to help better understand the varied needs of a client pool. The Montgomery County DHHS study was a testament to JG’s ability to work within such a diverse demographic, and to make the necessary changes for a given research framework to fit any given population.