Can the Public Sector Meet the Growing Demand for Digital Services?

By Kevin McCaney

Many public sector agencies were making progress with the digital transformation of their services when the pandemic hit. They weren’t, however, ready to handle the number of employees needing to work remotely or the large number of constituents looking for their services online.

Many agencies have infrastructure and siloed data stores that struggle to meet the requirements of modern digital services. Together, this has led to issues such as surges in demand for unemployment benefits that overloaded systems and shut them down. Such issues may be behind the drop in satisfaction with government digital services in the early days of the pandemic.

Achieving a digital transformation of these services must start with addressing the key challenges agencies face.

Constituent expectations. Increasingly, agencies serve a smartphone-savvy public that has come to expect seamless online interactions, whether dealing with a retailer, bank or government agency. The increasing prevalence of online shopping and social media is undoubtedly driving the rapidly increasing preference for consuming public services digitally.

But there is also an imperative to serve those who don’t fit in the digital world. “Those in the biggest need tend to be those with the greatest challenges,” said Scott Montgomery, Vice President Public Sector – SLED for Verint. “Access to mobile devices, a laptop and the internet may be difficult or impossible. So agencies must deal with both sides of the coin.”

The wide range of services. Agencies need to look at their digital services from the citizen’s point of view. The wide range of services provided by government at all levels can be confusing and make it difficult for many people to find the service they need. This is reinforced by the Accenture Citizen Survey that revealed a clear preference for single portal access to multiple services. Such a portal should be designed to be a “one-stop shop” – whether constituents want to report a pothole, a problem in the park or are unsure whether to call 211, 311 or 911. The challenge is in getting actionable information from across silos without expensive customization.

Providing consistent service. When agencies try to deliver real-time services digitally with existing processes, constituents often suffer long wait times and clunky services. If digital services and processes are not coordinated across different channels – such as between customer service representatives and chatbots – constituents can also end up receiving conflicting information.

The Solution: A Digital-First Engagement Platform

Agencies of all types and sizes would benefit from deploying a citizen engagement platform that offers comprehensive capabilities for improving the citizen experience while also giving employees the tools they need to improve service. Here are three key components:

A self-service portal. A lot of constituent requests or reports are fairly simple and could be easily handled using well-configured self-service transactions in a portal. This would provide faster service that would boost constituent satisfaction and take pressure off agent-assisted channels. Among its features:

  • Anytime/anywhere access for information and service requests, applications and other personalized services
  • An intelligent virtual assistant (IVA) chatbot that can provide contextual responses to questions and transition interactions easily to live assistance from an agent when required
  • Options for seamless, end-to-end integration and fulfillment of service requests
  • An open forum where constituents can interact with the agency and one another in a community setting, sharing ideas and offering feedback

Employee engagement. An essential element of improving service is providing the best tools to support the employees delivering those services. A good citizen engagement platform provides:

  • Self-service channels that function well enough to ease the burden on live assistance
  • Knowledge management capabilities that provide employees with access to information about services, policies and procedures that is consistent with what constituents get from self-service channels
  • Comprehensive case management and guided processes that support employees, work seamlessly with self-service and chatbot systems and integrate with backoffice systems
  • Workforce management tools that allow employees and managers to manage schedules and resourcing

Fraud prevention. Government services frequently involve collecting personal information and paying monetary benefits to citizens. This can make them a target for fraudsters and other criminals, just as in the commercial world. Effective, flexible and adaptive monitoring for a range of suspicious and fraudulent behaviors, coupled with alerts and preventative measures, can help ensure that the right services get to the right people.

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent report, “Can the Public Sector Meet the Growing Demand and Need for Digital Services?” Download the full report here.

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