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Interview: Lynda C. Davis, Ph.D.

Chief Veterans Experience Officer, Veterans Experience Office

 

Lynda C. Davis, Ph.D., serves as the chief veterans experience officer for the Department of Veterans Affairs. She is a former U.S. Army signal officer and has worked at the departments of Navy and Defense.

Veterans Affairs & Military Medicine Outlook: Can you explain the mission of the Veterans Experience Office (VEO) and how it carries out that mission?

Lynda C. Davis: VEO is VA’s veteran “Customer” Experience Office [CXO that] reports directly to the VA [Department of Veterans Affairs] secretary.

[Its] mission is carried out through VEO’s application of industry best-practice CX capabilities for data, tools, technology, and engagement.

For CX data, VEO captures and analyzes the voices of veterans, and their family members, caregivers, and survivors using human-centered design; real-time customer experience surveys using a platform employed by the leading CX organizations in the private sector; and veteran-experience data analytics to understand and detect trending topics.

For CX technology, VEO focuses on delivering easy, effective, and emotionally resonant veteran experiences through all communications channels including online, by phone, and in person.

With respect to CX tools, VEO has built and delivered tools and products for VA, starting with our partnership with the Veterans Health Administration [VHA], that are customer driven and industry informed, including CX Patient Experience [Directorate] training, personal facility navigation services, and Journey Maps.

For CX technology, VEO focuses on delivering easy, effective, and emotionally resonant veteran experiences through all communications channels including online, by phone, and in person.

Finally, for CX engagement, VEO supports veterans through enhanced outreach and involvement and the better coordination and integration of VA and non-VA services and resources at the local level through collaboration with Community Veteran Engagement Boards, Federal Advisory Committees, and other strategic partners.

 

How is the VEO organized and what are the responsibilities of each of the directorates?

VEO is organized in six directorates: 1) Portfolio Management manages project development and resources including program evaluation and accountability reporting oversight; 2) Insights and Analytics captures and analyzes the voices of veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors through the application of best-practice tools and technology; 3) Multi-channel Technology, delivers easy and effective veteran experiences through all communications channels, which includes vets.gov; 4) VA Patient Experience builds and delivers veteran experience tools and products for the Veterans Health Administration and staff offices; 5) VA Benefits Experience builds and delivers veteran experience tools and products for the Veterans Benefits Administration, National Cemetery Administration, Board of Veteran Appeals, and VA Central Office; and 6) Community Engagement supports veterans through coordination and integration of local VA and non-VA services that includes our Community Veterans Engagement Boards, Veteran Friendly Communities, and our federal advisory committees’ work.

 

What is your role at the Department of Veterans Affairs?

As a direct report to the secretary and an assistant secretary equivalent, I am part of the VA leadership team. I have a responsibility to not only lead the unique and important new Office of CX but to ensure that the policies and practices across the VA are designed and implemented with leaders, managers, and all VA employees to successfully meet the commitment we all have to serve veterans and assist the family members, caregivers, and survivors who support them with the best possible care and benefits experience based on their voice.

 

You are a former Army signal officer. How has your military service prepared you for this job?

My Army time reinforced my commitment to service and gave me critical leadership and management skills needed to be effective in the execution of policy and programs that meet mission requirements.

 

On a personal level, what were some of the veterans’ issues you wanted to take on when you knew you were going to be appointed to the job?

Having served in the military myself, being the mother of a veteran and also the caregiver of a disabled veteran and of a veteran’s widow, I knew I wanted to apply my personal experience and my treasured time with my peers to ensuring that their voices were heard.

Thus, my first pledge to the secretary was that the CX capabilities of VEO would be hardwired across the department to support the delivery of all care and benefits services across VA and to inform service recovery and program improvement through policy and operations. My second act was to recommend the formation of a federal advisory committee for veterans’ families, caregivers, and survivors.

My management of the Choose Home Initiative in support of VA’s delivery of comprehensive services to aging and seriously wounded, ill, or injured veterans in their homes and communities enables me to support this important VA-wide commitment to enhance VA case management and to better integrate supplementary community-based resources.

 

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced since your appointment to lead the VEO?

The challenges in the first year on the job were twofold: 1) to help VEO, as a new office modeled on industry practices with unique capabilities, to communicate its value-add to the department, specifically the administrations with responsibility for delivering service to our special customers, the veterans and families, caregivers, and survivors they serve, and 2) to help the VA administrations understand and apply that value-add to their operations.

VEO measures success based on the industry standards of CX ease, effectiveness, and emotional resonance, all of which contribute to the overall experience of trust in the VA and its delivery of care and benefits services.

I am delighted to report that significant progress has been made. VEO and its emphasis on CX is now recognized as a permanent part of the VA culture; its value has been proven through projects like Patient Experience, under which VEO and the VHA are implementing private-sector customer service best practices at all VA hospitals and are testing the use of a major customer feedback program that will enable our veteran patients to tell us about their specific experience. It will also empower our employees to take action to improve the veterans’ experience.

 

How does the VEO measure success for a veteran?

VEO measures success based on the industry standards of CX ease, effectiveness, and emotional resonance, all of which contribute to the overall experience of trust in the VA and its delivery of care and benefits services. We use multiple channels [websites, call centers, the White House VA Hotline, real-time service-line surveys, comment cards, personal interactions, and more] to listen to veterans’ concerns, compliments, and recommendations about their needs and those of their peers. They are the source of information on both individual need and requirements for service recovery and common needs, and the opportunity for program improvements. We listen, determine appropriate action, and then receive feedback on how our actions have addressed the needs we heard. As VA’s CXO, VEO is working across the VA to hardwire the voice of the veteran into policy and operations decision-making for the improved benefit of the veteran.

 

You’ve also been charged with improving the work experience for VA employees. Could you provide an example of how the VEO is leading this charge? And how would you identify its success?

Through the CX data capabilities VEO brings to the department, VA leaders, managers, and providers will be empowered with concrete customer-experience feedback from veterans. This feedback will better inform their responsibility for service recovery and their opportunity for performance improvements. VEO is providing its employees at all levels with CX training and tools and technology. For example, in VHA medical facilities, we are implementing a collaborative Leadership Rounding program, a standard Red Coat Ambassador program, and other CX best practices. Across all CX efforts, we are integrating back-end data systems so employees have more complete information on the veteran’s experience and can see the impact of their actions.

 

What has the response been to the White House VA Hotline?

The response to the White House VA Hotline has been overwhelming. Since becoming a 24/7 contact center on Oct. 15, 2017, the hotline has received more than 53,000 calls, which have been answered by a dedicated team of agents – more than 90 percent of whom are veterans or from a military family. Of the calls received, 59 percent of the callers are reporting concerns with a VA program or process. The remaining 41 percent of calls are either compliments, general inquiries, or directory assistance. The feedback received through the White House VA Hotline not only allows us to address veteran concerns, but also helps us understand the overall veteran’s experience. Veterans express their pleasure [about having] the ability to contact the White House VA Hotline. They call back to relay the timeliness of responses from medical centers for resolving their issues quickly or simply to say what great care they get at their specific VA medical center.

It has been an honor, and the culmination of my personal and professional experience, to continue to support our veterans and their families, caregivers, and survivors as the chief veteran experience officer.

This interview was first published in the Veterans Affairs & Military Medicine Outlook 2018 Spring publication.