In your mind, good citizen engagement might not be that important. Sure, your agency tweets and engages occasionally online, but its not a focus or a priority. After all, it can’t really affect anything that you’re doing that much, right?
Wrong. According to new data from Forrester Research, bad citizen engagement and poor customer service from government agencies has an incredibly sobering effect: it actually reduces citizens’ faith in the government as an institution overall.
This was the message that Rick Parrish, Senior Government Customer Experience Analyst at Forrester Research, brought to GovLoop’s recent citizen engagement event on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
“Good citizen engagement is actually a national security issue,” he said. “It strikes at the foundation of our political systems themselves. Bad customer experiences make people less excited about the prospects of our country itself.”
Luckily, Parrish offered up a wealth of information to back up why good citizen engagement is important that you can use to convince anybody who might think it shouldn’t be a priority. Below, read Parrish’s reasons that excellent customer service and citizen engagement will lead to success for you and your agency.
#1: Improved customer satisfaction: This one is pretty self-explanatory. Good customer service and engagement = happy citizens.
#2: Positive media attention: Doing cool things in customer service can garner you positive attention from the media, Parrish said, citing an example of an NIH initiative where they developed better customer interfaces for cancer patients. “Just building cooler citizen engagement stuff is a great way to get news out about what you’re doing without really trying,” he said.
#3: As customers become more engaged, your employees will become more engaged: “The happier customers are because of better engagement, the happier employees are,” Parrish asserted. “And I don’t just mean customer-facing employees, I mean everyone, from IT to analysts and beyond.” Parrish said that if customers are having a more positive experience with an interface or an agency, that happiness has a trickle-down effect to everybody working at that organization.
#4: You’ll get money in your budget for these efforts: “Agencies that are requesting money for better citizen engagement efforts are actually getting the money put into their budgets,” Parrish said. “The programs are popular. Focus on making your programs include good citizen engagement and you’ll get the money.”
#5: There’s value for the taxpayer, too: Parrish pointed out that though some citizen engagement and customer service programs might cost more money up front, if they’re done well, they should actually make processes more efficient and end up saving everybody, from the government to the taxpayer, money in the long run.
#6: You automatically will create internal efficiencies: “Things run more smoothly for everybody when you engage your customers and citizens,” Parrish explained. “Any organization that engages its customers better runs more smoothly inside. Internal systems and policies when all flow inward from a good customer experience. Any organization that engages its customers better runs more smoothly because all its internal systems and policies will flow inward from a good customer experience. We all have off-the-record workarounds for silly policies and processes, right? But when you become an outside-in organization, starting from the customer’s perspective and flowing inward, you redesign things so they are more efficient.”
#7: Co-creation and better ideas come out of good service: “Citizens can give you great ideas and solutions,” Parrish said. “Making everything a conversation with the citizens helps agencies come up with better ideas. For example, the new US Digital Service put out a playbook – and as part of their rollout they created a conversation back and forth with citizens to take their input, and soon they USDS come up with version 2.0 incorporating that input. They’re saying, ‘Here’s our first shot — help us make it better.'”
#8: Improved loyalty: Like, a lot improved. Parrish said that excellent customer service highly improves loyalty to your agencies in ways you may not expect — specifically, three ways:
- Compliance loyalty (likelihood that a customer will follow the agency’s directives or advice)
- Expansion loyalty (likelihood that a customer will engage with the agency even when it is not required)
- Advocacy loyalty (likelihood a customer will say positive things about your agency to other people)
Parrish stressed that you and your agency need to do not just more citizen engagement, but better citizen engagement, as soon as possible if you’re not doing it already.
“You can’t wait this one out,” he said. “But the good thing is that a revolution in federal customer experience is right on the horizon.”
Here’s hoping you and your agency will be a part of it.
See Rick Parrish’s full presentation here.
Read more recaps from the event:
- GSA Teaches Citizen Engagement
- 8 Reasons Customer Service = Success For You and Your Agency
- The White House: Championing Citizen Engagement Programs
- Digital Communications & the Rise of the CMO
For more citizen engagement ideas, make sure to download our free guide, 18 Strategies for Citizen Success.