Rachel Flagg is being recognized for her decades of service to improving service to citizens. Rachel embodies outstanding service to citizens. For over 20 years, Rachel has been a leader and trailblazer in government customer experience (CX). She has consistently pushed the envelope to advocate for customers — federal employees and the public — to provide better, user-centered experiences.
Rachel began her federal career at HUD, working with internal customers to resolve IT issues. She grew in this role to work on the HUD website, and she was among a small group of employees that produced and published federal websites for the public. She used metrics to identify the top tasks of HUD customers and help them quickly and easily complete their tasks — decades before user-centered design was widely known or adopted in the federal government. This is a concept more mainstream today; however, Rachel was implementing the concept decades ago.
As a co-chair of the Web Content Managers Forum, Rachel brought together web content managers across the federal government. Rachel recognized the need “for content managers, not techies, to get together to discuss web content and management issues facing the federal government.” The forum helped agencies share how they were organizing their information, marketing their sites, and getting feedback from users. It also helped content managers make the case to managers inside their departments to see the value in serving citizens.
After moving to GSA, she continued her efforts to organize the web content managers community and launched HowTo.gov, a website to help government workers use clear communication and innovative technology to deliver better service to citizens. Its mission was to share new ideas, common challenges, lessons learned, and successes across government to improve the customer experience. This brought together a broad range of the “front lines” of government customer service, managing a customer service channel, and supporting customers through new media, open government, and innovation. This led to the eventual creation of Digital.gov, an ecosystem of 29 communities of practice, 100+ annual events, and several websites, including plainlanguage.gov and usability.gov.
CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE TRAILBLAZER
At GSA, Rachel implemented a customer experience index and worked with GSA product owners to survey agency customers and create action plans to address the feedback. At the time, this effort was novel. It was the first of its kind and created a tactical way for GSA teams to improve their services to meet the needs of agency customers and, ultimately, improve the public’s experience on federal websites.
In 2018, Rachel led a redesign of Section508.gov which resulted in increased pageviews (12 percent as compared to the previous year) and decreased page load time by 13 percent. The response from customers and stakeholders was also very positive.
After 21st Century IDEA became law in 2018, Rachel spearheaded GSA’s efforts to modernize its websites and digital services. In 2020, Rachel published a series of articles about 21st Century IDEA to help colleagues at GSA and other federal agencies understand and meet requirements. In coordination with OMB and the Federal Web Council, Rachel also developed a template for the annual report for 21st Century IDEA. She shared the template with the federal web community to bring consistency across government to agency reporting efforts.
On March 11, 2020, DHS activated emergency support for federal web and social communications to support the national response to COVID-19. As the co-chair of the Federal Web Council, Rachel played a crucial role in coordinating the federal government’s public communications around COVID-19 response and recovery and ensuring the public benefited from more consistent web and social media communications related to the pandemic.
Rachel’s achievements have had a broad and far-reaching impact on the public. Her contributions have led to the improvement of numerous specific government digital services — from HUD’s website to WebContent.gov to Section508.gov and beyond.
Rachel also shares her knowledge and expertise with colleagues across government. She also frequently mentors and serves as a role model for other federal employees — coaching them in customer experience, plain language, and content development. This work, especially mentoring new public servants, is cultivating a community of federal employees committed to our public customers and improving their experience on federal websites and digital services in the coming years and decades.