Sarah and Julia on Veterans, VA and Customer Experience

Sarah Brooks and Julia Kim presented on their work with Veterans Affairs for the US Federal Government. Their project was part of a transformation within the US Federal Government, using service design to change the relationship with customers.

VA is the 2nd largest federal agency in the United States.

  • Healthcare (largest system in the US)
  • Social Services (employment, education, loans)
  • Government Agency

The system is brittle at three levels.

  • Strategic: Mistaking tactics for strategy
  • Operational: Products and services are not well-designed, deeply siloed
  • Local: Human touchpoints

Much about the VA is designed in Congress. They know their constituents but their solutions aren’t rooted in design research. There are legal restrictions but it’s possible to find some gray area for innovation.

The VA aspires to do right by their customers through three principles:

  • Predictable: Be transparent, set expectations
  • Consistent: Have systems in place to achieve minimum standards
  • Easy: Make it easy to be a customer

The team conducted immersive research with thick, qualitative data. They talked with over 100 veterans over many weeks of field research. Importantly, they including veterans who weren’t actually using the service. The team came up with 7 personas.

Building a co-design competency within the organization by training employees. Planning new interventions for the coming year to work directly with customers.

Also working to consolidate hundreds of VA websites into vet.gov, launching later this year.




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