This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop's recent guide, "Tips to Address 6 Common Pain Points in Service Delivery."
With so many technologies available for customer support today, it’s tempting for an agency or department to select the flashiest, quickest, or easiest-to-install solution, then, build their customer service strategy around that acquisition.
“In the past, technology dictated what an experience would be like,” said Jodi Thompson, Business Consultant at Genesys, a customer experience solutions provider. “But today, that should not be the case. You should first decide how you want to interact with your customers.”
That ability to interact with citizens using technology is a critical goal for government agencies, not simply to make sure strategy leads procurement decisions but also to ensure citizens get the services they need, through the communication channel that’s right for them. Thompson explained that, as agencies pursue the newest digital services, their legacy communication channels, like call lines, may need to become more sophisticated to meet citizen expectations. What agencies don’t want to happen is an uneven customer experience, where access in one channel is better supported than in others.
“The challenge is when someone might always call when they could resolve things online, but they don’t have that access,” Thompson said. “Agencies need to ensure that citizens can get the same level of service if they call through a telephone – that it’s not different and it’s not better or worse.”
To make sure agencies are selecting the right tools to create a holistic customer experience for their constituents, leaders should begin by examining their customer service goals. Then, they should seek technologies that allow them to meet those goals across platforms, rather than only in the newest communication channels. That’s called creating an omnichannel, rather than single or multichannel, approach to customer experience.
Thompson offered an example of how that strategy was executed in the city of Avondale, Arizona. Confronted with increasing constituent call volumes, the city was struggling to maintain customer service levels. However, the city didn’t want to eliminate calling as an option for citizens or neglect that service in favor of other digital portals, as some solutions would have suggested they do. Instead, the city wanted to maintain and improve their calling service with an interactive voice response (IVR) platform solution, even as they explored other channels.
Their ideal service would address ever-growing constituent calling volumes, improve access to family assistance resources, and reduce utility disconnects – without capital investments in hardware, software and staffing. City officials opted to seek a platform-as-a-service solution to meet its voice and call handling needs. This solution had to be flexible enough to handle a heavy call load and robust enough to deliver on both current and future needs, such as mobile integration and increased analytics.
Avondale leaders selected Genesys cloud-based inbound and outbound IVR solutions to help them build – in less than 90 days – a consolidated IVR platform designed to support a range of services and enable more self-service resolutions. Now, a Family Assistance inbound IVR helps manage and prioritize constituent call loads in the Neighborhood and Family Services Department. The Utilities Disconnect Notification outbound IVR provides status updates and allows callers to make immediate payments or set up payment plans that avoid service disconnects.
After just a few months using the platform, the city’s customer service staff also built an outbound IVR service to provide garbage pick-up reminders that ensure citizens and businesses know when pick-ups will occur around holidays. Overall, Avondale’s efforts increased citizen satisfaction and reduced strain on call centers.
Additionally, Thompson pointed out how the efforts increased employee engagement by offering them the tools and information they need to quickly anticipate and serve citizens needs and effectively do their jobs. “Employee engagement really does play a crucial role in customer service,” Thompson said.
Finally, to ensure that the IVR line doesn’t dissuade other forms of citizen communication with the city, the Genesys platform syncs with other portals to create real-time updates across all touchpoints. That means citizens can access the city’s government by whatever means they find most comfortable, and still get the same, reliable information.
That’s the goal of the omnichannel approach to citizen experience. “The key is to ensure you aren’t creating siloed solutions,” Thompson said. “Genesys enables agencies and departments to say how they want to design their experience and then gives them the tools to do it. We will connect everything. We’ll leverage your current investments, like your customer relationship management system of record. But, we can be the system of engagement that goes from one touch point to another across all these channels.”
A platform that facilitates omnichannel customer service helps both citizens and agencies alike – ensuring the right messages reach the right people, no matter how they choose to engage with government.