Opinion

Veterans department must change the way it does business

Author: Barry Farah - May 29, 2018 - Updated: May 29, 2018

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Barry Farah

Some government agencies should shrink. Some should be eliminated. And some should be reimagined to better serve their recipients — and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is a prime example.

We all want to take care of our deserving veterans. But, so far, no one has been able to fix the problems of fraud, bloat, malpractice, excessive wait times and rude service delivery.

These issues can be on the mend in one year, by inculcating a new mindset, which proactively thinks through how to deliver an exceptional service experience (customer experience or CX) for the veteran (the customer). There are seven steps.

First, develop a Veteran Experience Vision Statement (CX Vision Statement). This describes the VA’s goal of the type of experience each VA Recipient should expect and provides leadership with an inspirational and objective way to measure progress.

It is critical to develop the CX Vision Statement publicly. Leadership must engage all stakeholders in an atmosphere of transparency. The leadership team needs to travel across the fruited plain listening to the concerns and recommendations of veterans, employees, politicians and private citizens. The goal of this honest, open and collaborative approach is to assemble buy-in from many inside and out to develop a crystal-clear vision of the new working model for all 360,000 employees.

There is no doubt that some entrenched interests will resist the changes needed to take care of the veteran, but the outcome of this first step is a vision that challenges VA employees to deliver outstanding service in each of the VA’s three departments – and to do so with a smile. For example, a CX Vision Statement in health care could be: “The VA is committed to delivering exceptional integrated health care to its honored recipients. It honors the Veteran with a service demeanor of humility, kindness and excellence by energetically minimizing wait times, maximizing care and improving its Net Promoter Score (NPS) to the top 10% compared to other integrated health care providers.”

Second, and concurrently with the CX Vision Statement, produce a lean thinking audit and disclose the results. VA Leadership will need to be courageous and eliminate the inefficiencies, waste and fraud they uncover.

Third, create a detailed Veteran Experience Journey map that outlines every touch point for each VA Recipient. There are hundreds. At this time, a Net Promoter Score (NPS) would be advanced for each respective service offering: the largest integrated health care system in the country, the comprehensive benefits administration service and the extensive burial and memorial benefits. The NPS for each department will be continuously public – providing an easy accessible way for anyone to measure overall performance.

Fourth, examine each touch point for inefficiencies. The leadership team – which must include an entrepreneurial bent – has a duty to remain resolute and eliminate the silos and bureaucratic approaches and replace them with effective service delivery processes. (Now possible with last year’s accountability reforms and last week’s executive orders.)

Fifth, evaluate improvements for the future, potentially offering a voucher-like system and other outsourcing arrangements. (The MISSION Act makes this possible.) And as the lean thinking audit results are digested by the public, tens of billions in savings would be realized.

Sixth, use some of the savings to fund liabilities for future obligations and roll out a new incentive system that rewards CX Vision Statement achievements. The VA would become a fun place to work and employees will be motivated to deliver high-quality and speedy exceptional service.

Seventh, celebrate the improvements with an open communication system. Fraud, bloat, malpractice and rude service would be replaced with VA Employees boasting of their exceptional CX success stories, and VA Recipients conveying how they are experiencing a better life.

The VA, in one year, could turn the corner. It could begin to showcase how it honors and takes great care of our Veterans.

Barry Farah

Barry Farah

Barry Farah is the CEO of Precocity LLC, which provides CX software solutions to Fortune 500 clients. He also is a former candidate for governor of Colorado and the author of books on customer success and customer experience strategy.