In July 2015, Sutherland Global Services created the Sutherland Government Solutions, Inc. (SGSI) to better serve the specific needs of its government clients.
Sutherland Global Services has been around since 1986 and is a world leader in technology-enabled business process services. They are a process transformation company for major industry verticals including a good portion of the top 100 blue chip global companies. Sutherland Global Services is a large business delivering services exceeding $1.3B with a global team of 48,000 employees.
Executive Biz was able to talk with Teresa Weipert, Senior Vice President SGSI about the formation of the new government group and some of the process challenges agencies are facing.
Executive Biz: Sutherland rolled out SGSI last year, what major trends and items has the team focused on since?
Teresa Weipert: Our government group was created to respond to the recent trends in government aimed at applying best commercial practices and technologies to assist in the mission of the agencies as they look to consolidate and improve constituent experiences. And, we had to set up a compliant structure meeting the specific requirements of government contracting. Our “lessons learned” and the process methodologies applied center on the private sector models best aligned to government.
The creation of the U.S. Digital Service reflects the government’s keen interest in better serving its constituents. The federal government budgeted $105 million in FY16 to “scale and institutionalize” the U.S. Digital Service and to be able engage with citizen stakeholders. In industry terms this is called “customer-centric” focus, in government terms it is called being “citizen-centric.”
Being “citizen-centric” is an expanding paradigm for government. Federal agencies are now more amenable to considering a company like SGSI for “not inherently governmental” customer support services and transaction processing to address other core priorities. To mitigate risk, government is more comfortable working with companies who have proven records of performance.
Because our deep industry experience instills confidence in constituent government operations, SGSI is poised and eager to help.
Executive Biz: Which aspect of digital transformation has gained the most prominence in government?
Teresa Weipert: There are many aspects to digital transformation, especially regarding technology. I think a newly defined role in government encompasses and highlights the prominence of that transformation; “The Chief Customer Officer.”
Industry originally created the Chief Customer Officer role and now government is following suit. The Chief Customer Officer Council defines the role as “an executive who provides the comprehensive and authoritative view of the customer and creates corporate and customer strategy at the highest levels of the company to maximize customer acquisition retention, and profitability.”
Chief Customer Officers are responsible for building relationships and brand loyalty, managing strategy and data, assisting with decision support, and often serving as evangelists for products and services. They are also problem solvers, motivated by knowing the customer’s needs and priorities and dedicated to improving the overall customer experience.
Rick Parrish, a government customer experience analyst at Forrester Research and the leading expert on the subject matter of Chief Customer Officers in government, envisions federal CCO roles as needed and vital. He notes that aside from the four Federal agencies that now have Chief Customer Officers (General Services Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Export-Import Bank, and Federal Student Aid) many more U. S. federal agencies are considering adding the role.
The Chief Customer Officer role in both government and industry is for the constituent, the citizen, and the customer. All three identify people that are more savvy in today’s interactions for services and, of course, more demanding. It is the integrity of the data needed to complete some transaction, and it is the interaction via all channels -social, chat, email, phone – that must be leveraged to satisfy the demands.
Executive Biz: How have you seen customer service initiatives at agencies evolve over the past year?
Teresa Weipert: The government mission to improve customer experience has certainly evolved during the past year. It can be traced to legislation and executive policy action. For example, there is a provision included in the fiscal 2016 spending bill directing the Office of Management and Budget to report on agencies’ progress in developing customer service standards and incorporating them into performance plans.
This new provision states that more needs to be done to improve the services the government provides, whether it is citizens trying to use 1-800 Medicare, taxpayers calling the IRS with questions or the Office of Personnel Management processing federal employment claims.
Even before this congressional nudge, federal agencies were taking steps to address citizen customer service. OMB has been developing a customer service playbook that could help create general standards to be applied across agencies, allowing for better and more universal interpretation of performance data in digital government.
I mentioned earlier, the White House created the U.S. Digital Service “to improve and simplify the digital experience that people and businesses have with their government.” These efforts include utilizing state-of-the art contact centers, applying data analytics, software automation, and leveraging social media (e.g., Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook).
The good news is that much of the innovation and expertise for “elite customer service” and streamlined digital government exists in the private sector, which has created the standards and technologies that can be adopted by government.
After all, customer service for the private sector is all about market share (capturing and retaining) and delivering outcomes that drive profits (stock price, revenue). Excellent customer service and experience is a requirement and the businesses servicing the companies with these skills have the knowledge to communicate with state-of-the-art technology and demonstrate they are doing a good job.
Executive Biz: Where can industry work closer with agencies to adopt managed services for customer service?
Teresa Weipert: There is a demand for help with government for industry customer experience solutions, including citizen service contact centers , transaction processing capabilities, and overall resolution of any issue – registrations, enrollments, and other information exchanges. Sutherland uses a variety of the latest technologies for communication including avatars, texts, and social media on our advanced Omni 360 analytics platform with all the tools, methodologies, and processes needed to deliver.
Sutherland specializes in the processing of things like health and insurance benefit claims, the collections of funds due to various entities services that require a foundation in platforms, interfaces, recruiting and staffing tools and management, and brick and mortar or management of resources located anywhere in the U.S. SGSI delivers in different models – full integration of IT services, managed services, cloud based solutions and more. We understand the requirements of providing processes and solutions for smart government. As a trusted partner, our mission is to ensure that government can meet its vision of fully responding to citizen mandates.
Executive Biz: How should agencies think about robotics and automated processes to do transactions?
Teresa Weipert: Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a non-intrusive software tool technology. RPA units control a virtual keyboard and mouse and can navigate across screens. It can be customized to performance requirements and is scalable. RPA is used widely in the private sector, including for contact centers, insurance enrollment & billing, claims processing, and medical coding.
RPA can be applied in a similar way in government agencies. This includes tasks such as automating clerical processes that are often mundane and repetitive. RPA can apply to finance, accounting, procurement, supply chain management, human resources, and event IT support and management.
The benefits of RPA for government agencies are numerous. RPA can enhance the speed of the transaction or business process and address flexibility without changing the legacy programs. Most importantly, RPA allows federal agencies to focus more on core competencies rather than dull administrative activities. The automated software reduces risk of human errors and brings transparency and accountability into the process.
RPA is especially useful for government customer service functions. Customer contact centers can now be automated and assimilated into enterprise service desk platforms that use multi-channel contact tools such as phone, email, text, web, mobile devices, or through self-service tools and agent assisted responses. These software tools make the agents’ jobs easier by simplifying and augmenting their capabilities to respond to customer needs.