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Missed opportunities: customer experience in government

By David Turcotte, Global Industry Director, Public Sector, Microsoft on September 26, 2016

Filed under Microsoft in Government

Imagine a world where citizens are completely satisfied with their government – everything works, no complaints, people are happy. Okay, now back to reality. We might not be to “completely satisfied” yet, but the good news is, many governments around the world are seeking ways to better serve their citizens and a wave of digital transformation is enabling them to do so.

Public agencies are taking cues from the private sector to improve existing forms of communication and integrate net-new communication channels that make it easier for citizens to engage with their local government. In some cases, they’re finding that significant results can be achieved by simple process improvements. Other changes require significant modernization of systems and infrastructure.

The important thing is to recognize the need for change, as even minor improvements can make a big difference when it comes to customer service. Let’s look at four points governments should consider as they look to evolve their customer service approach using technology:

Many people still pick up the phone – phones handle around 68% of all contact center communications G02i Option A2(Call Center Helper)

Although technology may be progressing rapidly and new self-service communications channels are growing in popularity, most people still default to the phone when they need help. But don’t be fooled—resorting to the phone doesn’t mean citizens enjoy the experience. In fact, 75% of customers believe it takes too long to reach a live agent (Harris Interactive), and in 2010, 67% said they’d hung up on a service agency due to the frustration of not talking to a real person (Consumer Reports Survey, 2011). People use phones when they really need help, but they expect it to be a frustrating experience.  Private sector firms are working hard to improve the phone-based service experience – governments need to do the same.

Call centers are expensive – The average call center can realize $276,000 in annual operational savings from a 1% improvement in first call response (SQM Group)

Given that over two-thirds of all contact center communications happen over the phone, organizations have a huge incentive to streamline call center operations. Just a 1% improvement in resolving needs on the first call can save a quarter-million dollars annually. Increasing usage of online, mobile, and other service channels instead of the phone can save agencies even more money. Cost estimates for helping individuals in person range between $14 and $35, compared to just $6 for over-the-phone assistance, or just 10 cents for an online transaction.

Citizens want more options – 74% of customers use 3 or more channels to access customer services (ICMI research)

The most impactful change to communication in the past few years has resulted from the rise of mobile and online customer services. Today, people expect to get questions answered anytime, anywhere. To better meet changing customer expectations, government services need to engage citizens through a variety of communication channels (SMS, email, online chat, social media, etc.), and enable citizens to reach out at any time. Giving citizens options, including self-service tools, offers more flexibility, leads to greater satisfaction, and results in considerable cost savings.

Internet of Things (IoT) technology promises major gains – citizen experience benefits from IoT are valued at $412B through 2023 (Cisco)

In an ideal world, citizens wouldn’t need to use the phone or any other channel to communicate about an issue they find. With IoT technologies, this ideal world is not far off. Suppose a city leverages IoT technology to monitor roads for potholes. Instead of waiting for reports from citizens or city employees, the city receives an automatic alert when a pothole is detected. That way they can schedule repairs much faster. If a citizen finds the pothole and reports it, they are pleasantly surprised to learn that the city is already aware and has scheduled a crew to fix it. When public infrastructure and equipment can self-report issues using IoT communications methods, citizens’ experiences with their governments will inevitably improve.

How can you use technology to evolve your own customer service strategy?

Building a custom solution to improve engagement with your citizens can be time-consuming and costly. AvePoint Citizen Services, built on Microsoft Cloud technology, provides public agencies a solution that meets their needs without the need for custom development. The solution offers a centralized portal where the public can easily submit service requests or inquiries from anywhere, at any time, and on any device. It also integrates with IoT devices to receive automatically generated outage reports, which means that repairs can be requested before anyone even notices that they are needed.

For example, if a streetlight is out, a citizen has multiple options to report the outage – they can call their government service center, access the government service center application on their phone, or report the outage by accessing a website via a computer or tablet.  If the streetlight is IoT-enabled, the outage will be automatically reported to the system. The citizen servicesservice request ends up in a centralized portal and is automatically triaged and routed to the appropriate department. By minimizing manual processes that drain time and resources, AvePoint Citizen Services improves response time, service quality and, most importantly, citizen satisfaction.

You can learn more about AvePoint Citizen Services on the AppSource marketplace.  Whatever your goals are for your customer service department, new technology can help you achieve them.  Cost savings, citizen satisfaction, and public safety can all benefit from changes to current customer service strategies.  Find the right solution for your city and get started today!

 

 

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