Many governments were caught off guard by the COVID-19 pandemic. By adopting digital transformation initiatives, governments can make their operations more efficient and ready for the next disruption, while meeting the challenges of the new reality.
The COVID-19 pandemic introduced unexpected challenges for governments. Amid massive shutdowns, agencies that relied on in-person interaction and payments were suddenly faced with a major challenge. As their offices abruptly shuttered, governments were unable to conduct business and as an integral part of that, accept payments.
It has been a frustrating and trying time, but challenges can lead to opportunity. While some governments have been notoriously slow adopting change, many governments are now accelerating their timelines. Planned upgrades that were years away are suddenly being implemented in months. Faced with a constantly changing reality and another potential shutdown looming, there has never been a better time for governments to implement and embrace a digital transformation.
There are three main changes governments can make to help manage the current reality and prepare for future disruptions: implement a digital payment solution, create an option to conduct business digitally and offer contactless payment solutions.
Now more than ever, it is vital to provide taxpayers with their preferred payment method. A 2018 Ipsos study found that one in every four consumers have abandoned a transaction because their preferred method was not available. And consumers have long signaled a desire to make payments online.
Before the pandemic, the payment experience was already moving away from cash and checks and toward ACH (eChecks) and digital transactions. According to the Federal Reserve, ACH transfers now exceed the number of payments made by check.
Even as governments reopen, the majority of Americans have signaled discomfort in returning to their daily routines. If Americans are uncomfortable at the prospect of dining at their favorite restaurant, they are unlikely to rush into a government office to make a payment. Now is the time for governments to offer an online payment solution like Forte’s Electronic BillPayment and Presentation solution (EBPP). Using Forte’s online payment options, individuals can create a profile that allows them to manage their payments and accounts, personalize their profile and schedule future payments.
There are several major benefits to offering citizens an online payment option. During periods of disruption, such as the ongoing pandemic, residents can make payments from the safety and comfort of their homes. Additionally, in the event that further shutdowns are imposed, governments can keep the revenue flowing, even if citizens cannot leave their homes. By providing citizens more options, governments can avoid future payment disruptions, ensuring that governments can maintain payroll and continue to offer critical services.
As the saying goes, even during a crisis, “the show must go on.” As a result of lengthy shutdowns, government employees were greeted upon their return to a substantial backlog. Through no fault of their own, employees are increasingly overworked and struggling to catch up. To protect against potential disruptions in the future, governments should invest in a solution that allows them to conduct business online.
In an effort to prepare for the new normal, agencies are having to “prioritize and sequence services and functions and work to create appropriate infrastructure and safeguards for employees and the citizens they serve.” To do this, many municipalities have used CARES Act funding to invest in, or expand their usage of, applications like SeamlessDocs to modernize online services for both citizens and staff. These have included services like SBA and rent assistance applications, voter registration, building licenses, emergency paid sick leave forms, and a plethora of others. Municipalities have also benefited from being able to complete forms and payments in a single session thanks to payment integrations through Forte EBPP.
Building an end-to-end digital experience for government processes improves efficiency, transparency, and accuracy. This makes life easier for employees, as they continue to provide top quality service for citizens. It also safeguards systems and processes from future disruptions, ensuring that the show can indeed go on, even during a pandemic.
While there is a growing shift toward online payments, some citizens still prefer an in-person experience to digital. And not everybody has access to a bank account, debit or credit card, requiring them to make cash payments.
But the new reality has fundamentally changed the way that governments can safely conduct business. In addition to making online payments an option, governments should offer safe in-person payment options such as self-service kiosks and contactless payment terminals.
The concept of self-service is not new. In fact, one study found that 67 percent of consumers prefer to use self-service. Self-service kiosks will allow citizens to make payments, complete forms and search records, all while following social-distancing guidelines. Governments should also utilize contactless payment terminals. Their use was on the rise pre-COVID, and now over half of all Americans have used a contactless payment method. Governments can keep citizens and employees safe, while continuing to offer services and collect payments.
As a result of the pandemic, many governments find themselves in a difficult position in terms of budgets. By using kiosks and contactless payment solutions, governments can save money on labor and bolster revenues. Further, their use will allow current employees to tackle the backlog of government business.
COVID-19 has substantially disrupted government business, but also provided valuable insights into ways to make governments operate more efficiently. There are key changes agencies can make to make payments simple, secure and accessible—now and in the future.
As payment options go digital, governments should move from an in-person service model and expand their digital offerings to self-service, kiosks and online forms. By offering kiosks and contactless payment methods, governments can keep citizens safe and keep operations moving. By meeting today’s challenges, governments can be more than prepared for any disruptions in the future.
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