This coming year, New York Chief Customer Experience Officer Tonya Webster is going to take a hard look data-driven service delivery and customer experience for its residents, and upgrade all of its agencies’ websites with a centralized design according to priorities that Gov. Kathy Hochul named Tuesday in her 2024 State of the State address.
Webster’s work was named in a section in Hochul’s annual address, titled “Making government work better.” Though she was named to the role in October, Webster’s position was first announced last year during Hochul’s 2023 State of the State address. A year on, Webster told StateScoop her new position and the state’s focus on customer experience will be key to achieving the governor’s three main objectives for improving the state’s interactions with residents this coming year, which include increasing access to public benefits, expediting processing times for services and laying the foundation for a strong statewide customer experience infrastructure.
As the first governor-appointed chief customer experience officer in the country, Webster will be responsible for overseeing the execution of Gov. Hochul’s initiatives. But before diving into the new year, she told StateScoop, New York needed to start making data-driven decisions with data-based benchmarks built-in, so there was a way to measure the success of the initiatives.
Webster said state agencies have already started to aggregate certain types of data, including the volume of engagement with state services online, the total time from contact to delivery and the reduction of unnecessary transactions.
“It’s how we will know if we’re moving the needle … so we can understand where we need to drive improvement and where those customer pain points really are,” Webster said.
Along with data, the governor is also aiming this year to overhaul the design of the state’s websites. Webster said this will include standardizing “look and feel” across agencies. She said that a revamp of the websites’ aesthetic and their compatibility with other services will help to “create a more holistic feel in interactions with government services online.”
“Right now, it can feel a little disjointed. So with the implementation of that system, that would really help open up the ways that New Yorkers interact with us,” Webster said, adding that most agencies and their sites are currently operating independently. “When we talk about that design system, it’s how do we start threading that all together so it’s more intuitive, it’s more seamless, and you’re taking the friction out so that these systems are talking to each other better than they’ve been talking to before.”
Webster said the other two initiatives Hochul has envisioned for improving the state’s customer experience — increasing access to public benefits and expediting the processing time for those services — go hand-in-hand. Whether it’s looking more closely at the process for applying to the Women, Infants and Children nutritional assistance program or for applying for benefits to the state’s housing authority, Webster said back-end processes are must improved along with the resident-facing experiences.
“When we’re talking about looking at housing or the different backlogs in applications such as the State Liquor Authority, we’re really making sure that it’s not only about the transactions that you’re having online — we’re also making sure that these back-end processes, that we’re looking at those as well and creating improved processes and mechanisms and technologies in order to make sure that, systemically, we have the infrastructure in order to make this all work,” she said.