In this digital age, online transactions are part of our everyday lives. You can easily email coworkers and check your online bank accounts all from your phone. Businesses are continually working to improve these digital transactions with their customers and the hope is for government interactions to be just as seamless.
The challenge is moving government services online in tight budgetary times and making them accessible and user-friendly for constituents. People want the ability to easily interact with their government when it comes to reporting issues, asking questions, and even renewing their driver’s license without having to leave their house.
To learn more about improving constituent experiences with digital technologies GovLoop sat down with a panel of experts at a recent online training who shared their secrets to government digital services success. The speakers were:
- Bob Benstead, Vice President of Business Development for Infor’s Public Sector
- Nikhil Deshpande, Director of GeorgiaGov Interactive, the online portal to Georgia’s state government
- Warren Kagarise, Communications Coordinator for the City of Issaquah, Washington
- Chuck Wentzel, Director of Engagement and Hook & Loop Team at Infor
They examined the internal and external benefits of digital services and gave several tips for improving the constituent experience on digital platforms. Below are some key takeaways.
Create an engaging conversation and experience
The speakers explained the importance of creating a conversation around the provided content. Deshpande discussed a new initiative GeorgiaGov is planning where he hopes to integrate Amazon’s Alexa, allowing users to speak interactively with agency individuals. Kagarise highlighted the importance of being engaging and going where your customers are, whether that’s on social media or on other outlets.
Agencies should also create a productive journey for all types of users — from everyday citizens to experienced navigators of the web, Wentzel said. “It is important to look to citizens and user interaction when taking the first step to improving services,” he said.
Make services accessible
One of the primary drivers for improving the constituent experience is the level of access for users. Digital services can create more channels for citizens to build a connection and develop trust in their government agencies. However, they cannot do this unless they are able to successfully navigate online channels. Benstead explained the importance of making digital service into a “consumable” form. “You can’t dismiss the business aspect,” he said. “You have to make tools available.”
Capitalize on existing resources and people
Many of the concerns about improving digital services are that there are a lack of financial resources and people to manage and monitor these online channels once they are up and running. One way to solve this is to create a case for improvement by providing data and demographic information and pooling together a team of existing people in your agency who have a natural interest in digital services. Deshpande spoke about the importance of training personnel on how to use digital systems and how to engage with customers and enhance the user experience. Also, you don’t have to automate everything. Consider only the aspects of the agency that would benefit from digitization. Pick digital services that make sense.
Break down barriers
Internally, government agencies can facilitate a more streamlined outlook on how issues are handled. Often, constituents become frustrated by the twisted journey of accessing online government resources and pages. Digital services can break down these barriers by making information available in a single channel, without forcing constituents to have to access multiple online channels to accomplish a single goal. Adopting digital services also enables agencies to more easily communicate with each other and work together to serve citizens.
Know your constituents
To succeed in improving digital services, it is important to understand who your constituents are. From generational differences to specific needs, you must stay user-focused and understand their mindset. Your number one priority is to serve your constituents. Kagarise explained the benefits of gathering data from users to improve constituent experience. He looked at clients around the Seattle area and studied what state agencies were doing. By looking at individual constituent’s specific needs, you can build stronger connections while giving users a greater sense of citizenship and community.
When it comes to the future of digital services, using data and increasing transparency will go hand in hand. Agencies will continue to generate and use large amounts of data and it will become essential to further personalize the citizen experience using that data.
“The most important thing to address is how we can continue to provide online experiences that are more personalized,” Wentzel said. By being more responsive, government agencies will be able to strengthen connections and foster a stronger relationship with their constituents and the communities they live in.