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VA Sees Returns from Yearslong Customer Experience Campaign

Focus on addressing prior lapses in services and care access have led to increasing veteran satisfaction.

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The Department of Veterans Affairs improved services delivery and increased veteran satisfaction through a years-long campaign of customer experience analysis that addressed agency services as part of a cohesive program.

Chief Veterans Experience Officer Barbara Morton outlined how the agency mapped out and executed wide-reaching improvements to its core services at the 2022 FCW Government Customer Experience & Engagement Summit Wednesday.

This campaign originated from an agency-wide review following the discovery of prolonged wait times and other obstacles to care across the Veterans Health Administration in 2014.

“We started our journey out of a crisis in April 2014, the Phoenix VA Medical Center Wait Time Crisis… That was a situation where veterans were not able to access the care that they needed in a timely fashion,” Morton said.

The wide-reaching campaign noted how veterans access care while sourcing direct feedback on the quality and accessibility of essential services. These efforts were organized under the newly created Veterans Experience Office designed specifically to analyze and address the customer-facing delivery of VA services.

“In 2015, VHA Secretary Bob [McDonald] thought to himself that we’ve got to establish these kinds of core capabilities, and he established the Veterans Experience Office in January 2015. This was the first of its kind in the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Morton said.

Much of VA’s subsequent reforms hinged on the usage of journey maps tracing the ways veterans access and continue receiving care, which helped VA organize services as a whole-of-customer approach that ties previously siloed capacities into a more unified concept of care.

“One of the first things the team did was create the first ever veterans experience journey map,” Morton said. “It was a game changer for us because it really was able to showcase what it means to think in a customer centric way, forcing us as an organization not to think of ourselves in terms of our own organizational chart, but thinking of ourselves in terms of how we might serve veterans based on different moments that matter in their lives along their life journey.”

This included particular attention to customer experience (CX) design and iterative development, which incorporates specific analytics and veteran feedback to continue fine-tuning services and care portals. The VA’s new CX approach also encompassed insights and feedback drawn from agency employees.

“We applied the same principles, the same techniques of human-centered design, as we had in the veterans experience journey map and the patient experience journey map to the employee experience journey map, turning those insights into tangible tools, trainings, leadership practices  to empower employees to deliver better experiences,” Morton said.

The result was an overall increase in the VA’s quality of care and ease of access to services, which in turn led to reported growth in satisfaction and trust among veterans who come to VA for healthcare and benefits.

“The question that we asked veterans at that time was very simple: do you trust the department to fulfill its commitment to veterans? In 2016, 55% of veterans surveyed at the time either agreed or strongly agreed with that trust statement… We continue to measure trust, and that trust now stands at 78%,” Morton said.

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