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Booz Allen IT Director Chris Bagley shares how modernizing customer experiences for the IRS started with a common-sense approach: Getting to know customer needs.
How do we help the Internal Revenue Service create innovations like IRS2Go, the U.S. Government's most-downloaded app? According to Booz Allen IT Director Chris Bagley, it starts with listening. We recently sat down to discuss his perspective on digital government transformation. Read the edited transcript and listen to the full podcast below.
Chris, what does empowering citizens mean to you?
When we talk about empowering citizens, we’re talking about empowering people. And that starts by listening. We found we’re better able to support the IRS and their mission by supporting the citizen and their mission—the needs and desires they bring to that agency.
How did your user experience (UX) team help the IRS put the consumer first?
Our research team literally walked across the street to citizens visiting the Smithsonian and asked a few questions. For example, the IRS assumed people don’t want to pay taxes. The answer we brought back was, “Actually, I would love to pay my taxes. Can you make it a little easier, please?” Next we were invited into taxpayers’ homes to see them deal with their taxes. Observing their needs allowed us to structure solutions for the major use cases folks have: How do I file? How do I find out how much I owe? How do I find forms? How do I fill those forms out? How do I get help?
Tell us about the technologies.
The technologies are almost secondary because first, you have to get to the problem that needs to get solved. Then you match the solution to the problem based on the opportunities and challenges that the people trying to solve the problem have. Once we know the problem, we have many ways to solve it at different price points and levels of complexity: content management systems that publish information online, mobile technologies allowing people to look up tax info on their iPhone, and so on. Booz Allen has experts in all different flavors of technology, from data scientists to programmers to program designers and visual designers.
We conducted a survey with Ipsos that found people are optimistic that digital experiences with government can be improved. What benefits would we see from a self-service model?
For the agency, self-service is a lot cheaper; for the citizen, they get control over how they interact with the IRS. That’s an opportunity for everybody and I think it allows agencies to spend less, do more, and then reinvest some of those savings in continually listening and evolving as the needs of the population change.
What’s an example of a customer-centric service?
I would say IRS2Go, one of our main solutions for those use cases I mentioned. The IRS is connected to so many things we do. For example, if you want to apply for a mortgage, you need to get your tax records. So instead of spending two hours on the phone waiting for someone to take your request and mail you a tax transcript, you can log in, securely download a tax transcript, and email the pdf to your mortgage officer. Or you can see when your tax refund will hit your bank account or ask a question. And you can do it anywhere—even on the metro. Citizen-centric services allow people to access what they need how and when it works best for them.