CX Starts with Hello: We Can’t Build Trust Without Communicating

Communication fosters trust by creating transparency and two-way dialogue. It is the foundation for every relationship, whether personal or professional. And yet, the government has been slow to embrace the power of communication in its CX efforts. This must change. If the government wants to build trust through CX, it must start with communication. Anything less will fall short of the mark.

Now that government customer experience is on center stage, it’s time to examine the meaning of the words, “CX builds trust.” Trust, as it is repeated by CX enthusiasts, increases compliance, and participation, and creates a two-way channel for communications. Therefore, the government’s answer to CX has been largely around improving contact centers, beginning to send surveys to gather feedback, and doubling down on digital service delivery.

All these things are a fantastic start to a necessary journey toward modernization. However, what is shockingly missing in this slurry of investments and ideas, is the critical need to invest in communication channels and strategies. We cannot begin to “build trust,” without communicators.

Communicating for Awareness

In any standard journey of a customer, the first step is “awareness.” As private consumers, we can easily identify the ways that corporations spend millions of dollars to segment, identify, and target who the product or service is destined for, and how to reach it. With the government’s squeamish outlook on “marketing” activities*, and without an awareness strategy, government programs can often be destined for underutilization.

Billion-dollar investments to build “seamless” identity verification or user experience can’t fully shine without enthusiastic and aware customers. It’s akin to spending a lot of energy and goodwill on building a free lemonade stand on a scorching summer afternoon, without any signs. Without a proper plan at the awareness stage, failure to over-communicate presents a catastrophic risk to program success.

Communicating for Consideration & Conversion

The next step of a customer is generally around “consideration.” Now that customers are aware of the availability of a product or service, they likely have many questions and concerns about taking the next step toward conversion. This is where the government has made small investments in chatbots, contact centers, websites, and FAQs to guide customers. However, all these technologies, without the presence of a proactive outreach strategy, put the burden of information on the customers to seek out.

While some may find it controversial, the ideas that “people want to talk to people” and that “customer service exists when the experience fails” can co-exist. Proactive communications that respectfully remind people of the next steps in the journey and manage expectations are key ingredients to reducing call volume and frustrations. Taking on the challenge of integrating service delivery to communications is a high ROI investment worth considering for any major modernization or CX initiative. Imagine while key modernization initiatives and process re-engineering occurs, customers are still in a lurch about when they might hear back or how to prepare for the next steps. Frequent and meaningful communication instills transparency, while silence causes anxiety.

Communicating for Retention and Loyalty

The only way to keep a customer is to keep in constant communication. From our experience, retention happens when a positive experience is met with a smooth transition of service maturity. A satisfied customer who has forgotten about you until their next interaction is not the same as a loyal one. If the government wants to increase satisfaction and loyalty scores (and, therefore, participation), it must make massive investments in its communications strategy and team.

Moreover, an effective communications team will also have deep insights into what’s working and what needs improvement — making them a critical part of any CX or modernization feedback loop.

The role of communications is often treated as an afterthought or “nice to have,” but it should be elevated as a key success metric for any major government initiative.

The CX Path Forward

The way forward is clear: The government must invest in communicators to support its CX efforts. Only then will it be able to build the trust needed to increase participation and compliance. When we do not have dedicated communicators to manage these interactions, the digital delivery of government services will continue to miss the mark on meeting customer expectations.

What’s more, a lack of proactive outreach and communication can unintentionally send the message that the government is uninterested in engaging with citizens, or only interested in hearing from them when they are already in crisis mode. This dynamic puts the government at a disadvantage to meet customer needs and solve problems before they become bigger issues.

 *There are many restrictions on how the government can communicate with citizens, which has caused a “marketing” aversion in some agencies. However, there are ways to get around this — through public affairs, digital engagement, and other creative strategies. The key is to have a plan.

Charlotte Lee is an award-winning customer experience and human-centered design practitioner based in Washington D.C. In 2021, after 10 years of entrepreneurship, she joined Granicus as the Strategic Lead for CX and Innovation. In her work as subject matter expert in innovation and CX, she’s developed foresight from assisting senior government executives from over 15 federal agencies and Fortune 50 companies in designing, developing, and implementing their plans for digital transformation. Charlotte collaborates with government and industry executives in her capacity as the CX Community of Interest Industry Chair with the American Council of Technology – Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC.) She is driven by her own vision of a better connected, empathetic, modern, and trustworthy government service delivery for people all around the world.

Photo by Kampus Production

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