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Communications are the Foundation for Creating Customer-Centric Experiences: Veterans Affairs Case Study

A public-sector’s website is the centralized location for your organization’s resources and online services. The usability and customer centricity of your website, and corresponding communications, are a make or break for your organization.

Case in point… This past March, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) re-launched the website http://explore.va.gov/ to serve as a one-stop hub for healthcare, education, employment, pensions, housing assistance, life insurance, and other benefit information for veterans and their families. The refresh – ExploreVA – set out with the main goal of engaging this important group to increase engagement, demonstrate value, improve public perception, and achieve strategic organizational priorities. With 19.6 million veterans of the U.S. armed forces as of 2014 – and this doesn’t even include spouses and children – you can see how important it was for the VA to execute on the re-launch.

From leading with customer experiences, to designing a user-centered interface, read on to learn why the VA is moving toward mastering the citizen experience with digital communications.

It’s All About The Customer

Customer expectations are rising in light of the fast-paced, customer-centric experiences in the private sector. The information age we live in makes it easier to obtain information in near real-time, increases convenience and choices to customers, allows for better transparency of operations, and permits individuals to become better informed of policies and processes. This is why it is imperative to create an experience that focuses on the end reader.

What do you risk by not considering your citizen customer experience?

  • Reduced engagement
  • Declining public perception of your value
  • Limited ability to receive the necessary resources to achieve strategic priorities
  • Failure to comply with federal mandates

The first launch of www.VA.gov/explore, a landing site within the VA.gov structure, kicked off in September 2013. This was the “horse before the cart”, and provided insight about how customers interacted with the content. Through the first launch, VA quickly learned they needed to produce content in a more digestible format. To this end, the following changes were made:

  • Easy navigation to nine main benefit areas
  • Robust content to clearly explain each benefit in detail
  • A video gallery, with 50+ videos and graphics used to describe each benefit area
  • A social media sharing portal which enables one-click sharing on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest
  • An outreach toolkit with benefit fact sheets

Light Window Overlays

VA soon learned that that the number of people you can reach digitally is directly correlated with a successful organizational outcome. That’s where digital communications became a key part of VA’s customer-centric strategy.

As part of the campaign, GovDelivery helped VA test light windows using A/B testing. The variables tested included the design of light windows on the website’s homepage, enticing subscribers interested in receiving information about VA benefits to capture benefit seekers’ email addresses.

The conversion optimization test’s goal was to verify which variation drove the most audience growth.

After the A/B test winner was selected, the result was astounding: the email address collection rate increase by 48% and the email list grew to one million subscribers. VA’s Director of Digital Media Engagement Megan Moloney said that the new light-boxed lead generation form is now a powerful asset that enables VA to get information out quickly and efficiently.

Email Takes the Lead for Most Effective and Scalable Communications Channel

The Explore VA website re-launch wasn’t a solo effort… it had the support of other marketing channels like email. Soon after the 2.0 website re-launch, the ‘File a Claim’ pages received nearly 300,000 visits (between March 18 and 27) 99% of which came from the robust email effort to promote this change in the filing process. The email campaign accounted for more than 80% of ExploreVA traffic during that timeframe. Email visitors converted at a 31% rate on the “File a Claim” pages (which were designed in keeping with the look and feel of the Explore site), more than general search web traffic.

After the ExploreVA 2.0 redesign, they saw huge growth with web visitors and click-throughs from social media.

With this case study, you can see the importance of having an engaging, focused, and easy to navigate website. Each month the ExploreVA website receives an estimated 4.5 million visits. With the website redesign and supporting email efforts, ExploreVA was able to better reach and communicate to each visitor, to fulfill President Abraham Lincoln’s promise “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan” by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans.