Get Ready for Customer Experience Technology (Contributed)

Live chat, chatbots and artificial intelligence have changed for the better how companies interact and help customers in the private sector. Now, it’s time for government to do the same with the latest in CX technology.

by / March 20, 2019
A Chicago Transit Authority train. Shutterstock

Advanced customer experience (CX) technologies are proliferating in the private sector, connecting customers with companies via a number of channels — phone, email, live chat, and even social media — quickly and easily. That’s why by 2020, experience will overtake price as a key differentiator for consumers. It’s also why citizens today expect increasingly transparent and responsive services from the public sector. 

Direct government-to-citizen (G2C) experiences are paramount in shaping perceptions of and building trust in public-sector agencies. Every level of government can take steps to improve G2C interactions by updating their citizen experience philosophy and adopting modern technology. One powerful example that has already proven to improve customer experience in the private sector is a live chat platform where citizens can connect with government agents directly via their website or mobile app.  

Some of the most frequent interactions citizens have with governments, including renewing their drivers' licenses or obtaining permits, occur at the local or state level. Since this is where the most face time occurs, upgraded technology can have a large impact on the G2C experience and provide a wealth of benefits. 

Implementing modern customer experience technology can be a wise investment because of the many needs it serves. Citizen interactions already happen across multiple channels, such as in person, over the phone and online. Adding live chat can help streamline that process, saving time and labor costs while meeting citizen expectations more effectively.  

Live chat is one example of what’s going on with CX technology and how it can help. Here are other key trends to consider:

No. 1: Connect with Constituents 

Government agencies have to meet their constituents where they are. According to Conduent’s 2018 citizen experience report, 65 percent of citizens prefer interfacing with their local government online, and there is every reason to think this percentage will continue to climb. Some state and local governments are making moderate strides with websites and mobile apps designed for sharing transit information, traffic alerts, weather warnings and other updates that citizens need from their local governments. CX platforms bridge the gap between agency and citizen and help circumvent typical obstacles like long forms with confusing legal jargon and lengthy in-person wait lines. 

No. 2: Understand the Citizen Journey

The citizen journey is how a person interacts with government services, from when they begin looking for information to the time the service is delivered. This journey is multi-touch, multi-channel and cross-functional in nature, and agencies that skillfully manage those experiences will see higher levels of citizen satisfaction and more streamlined and cost-effective operations. Viewing government services from a citizen-centric perspective is particularly important as citizens in different locations or of different ages, all have varying needs. Insight into the citizen journey can help local governments better serve these groups.  

If citizens don’t know which government agency to turn to for their inquiry, they might reach out to various offices and end up being rerouted, oftentimes incorrectly. Today’s CX technology has advanced functionality that can help eliminate a poor experience by automatically routing chats to the right people in the right department and, with the aid of chatbots, help qualify requests and even handle them to completion.  

Chatbots powered by artificial intelligence can decipher the intentions of constituents and respond without having to involve an agent. They improve access to information and can easily escalate to a human agent when a request requires their attention. No matter what a citizen needs throughout their journey — from information about benefits eligibility to paying for building permits — live chat and chatbots can help deliver quick and convenient access.  

Concerned that live chat may not appeal to certain segments of your audience, whether by age or aptitude? Fear not. A good live chat platform will offer audio and video alongside typing as a way of communicating with an agent, making it easy to have natural, high-touch conversations when needed. This is particularly helpful for agencies that deliver services to the elderly or those with disabilities.

No. 3: Leverage the Power of Proactive Chat

Government agencies that proactively share information with citizens will see improved levels of satisfaction while also reducing costs, diverting demand away from resource-intensive phone systems and in-person interactions. With live chat, government agencies have the ability to initiate a chat with website visitors through a pop-up invitation. For example, governments with seasonal schedules for transit systems can program proactive chat to notify website visitors of upcoming changes and invite them to chat and learn more. These invitations can be programmed to appear on the bus schedule pages, rider alerts pages, or notifications pages to deliver instant answers. 

Governments can also tailor multiple proactive chat invitations for different pages on their website. Other possible uses of proactive chat include providing information about buying fares (on a fares page), road closures and detours (on road construction pages) and changed operating hours (on a Contact Us page). By proactively offering this information and inviting users to chat they can reduce the volume of visitor inquiries down the line, not only saving their constituents time, but also making more efficient use of employee labor.  

Live chat is considerably more scalable than phone and in-person as well. It allows one agent to serve multiple customers at once. If equipped with a chatbot that can handle the more basic inquiries, the live chat system can manage even more volume, during more hours. These time and labor savings can quickly justify the initial investment in technology. 

No. 4: Protect Citizen Data 

Strict regulations dictate that new technologies need to pass stringent security verification processes, and for good reason: 51 percent of citizens are worried about hackers targeting their confidential information on government websites. Government agencies need to adhere to the highest standards of security and privacy. This has historically presented barriers to digital citizen engagement and caused the public sector to fall out of step with emerging technologies.  

A fully secure and compliant CX platform can help agencies deliver great G2C experiences without putting citizens’ data at risk, as state-of-the-art security protocols and encryption tools protect confidential data. The technology’s flexible configuration lets governments reap the benefits of real-time communication while complying with mandated security and privacy requirements.

No. 5: Apply CX Data to Decision-Making

Improving the G2C experience is a simple way for government leaders to keep a finger on the pulse of their constituents and help citizens feel more connected and trusting of their local government. Conventional customer service metrics like length or number of phone calls don’t paint the full picture. Using qualitative, conversation-based data, government officials can see where citizens drop off or are left unsatisfied. Data from CX platforms can quickly give government officials visibility into points of frustration and areas for improvement without the need for lengthy and costly surveys. They can also identify where in their G2C journeys citizens may be giving up.  

However, capturing the data isn’t enough: improving the G2C experience means that agencies need to apply these metrics to decision-making processes already in place. As with any technological investment, leaders need to invest time and resources to deliver the changes that citizens demand to modernize the public sector.  

Improving the G2C experience isn’t easy, but modern CX technologies can have a big impact. These cost-effective, highly accessible tools have proven their worth in the private sector, and they can surely help local governments better understand and meet citizen expectations. Agencies then translate those expectations into targeted, effective service improvements will see public satisfaction go up even as delivery and engagement costs come down.

Jeff Epstein

Jeff Epstein is Comm100’s VP Product Marketing and Communications. He’s a B2B marketer with 20+ years’ experience creating compelling messaging and content for sales enablement and demand generation. Jeff has held roles in sales, product marketing, business development and partner marketing with companies including IBM, General Motors, Sophos, QuickMobile, Allocadia, and Comm100. He holds a BA from the University of Waterloo and an MBA from Thunderbird, the American Graduate School of International Management.