Paradigm Shift: Engaging Citizens as Customers


Digital experiences are now the cornerstone of interactions with government services, driven in part by the rapid spread of web, mobile, and social channels. Citizens are in control. They decide how, when, and where they want to engage with government – whether it is in a service center, over the phone, on social media, via a mobile app, email, or on the web. No matter which channel they choose, citizens expect government to recognize them, what processes or interactions are underway, and to do so at every touch point. Given the fluidity of today’s online interactions, citizens are often one click away from broadcasting a bad experience with your agency to hundreds of friends, or abandoning an online service for a high-cost, in-person transaction.

The more digital engagement becomes culturally ingrained, the more vital it becomes to providing good customer service. To better reach customers, companies are using digital technology to promote, deliver, and enable innovative services that reliably create positive experiences for their target audiences.  Now it’s up to government to meet this new standard. To reach citizens in the digital age, successful agencies must cultivate those same instincts. They need to learn how to use technology to deliver their services and messages in a way that appeals to their customers – tech-savvy modern citizens. In doing so, they can build better relationships and interactions with all citizens – any time, any place, and on any device.

Citizens want to feel, in their communications with government agencies, like their voices are being heard. In fact, in a January 2014 survey by Accenture of 5,000 citizens from 10 countries, 76 percent of the Americans polled wanted more citizen participation and engagement in government, answering, “tend to agree” or “strongly agree” to the question, “Should people be more involved in shaping how public services are designed or delivered?”

Digital engagement empowers citizens with the ability to learn, share, engage, and let their voices be heard – in real-time. People want to be able to access government services and solutions anytime and anyplace. Digital engagement technologies help government effectively meet those needs.

The initial building blocks for success are to:

  1. Establish an expectation of excellence. Public perception of government services is generally low.  Although progress has been made, there is still work to be done.  The most recent US Federal Customer Satisfaction report published by ACSI shows that there is a decline in satisfaction. Albeit there are many factors that are tied to this decline, such as increased demand combined with real budget pressures, the fact remains that government trails significantly behind the private sector. Agency leaders need to define an internal and external expectation of quality, timely service and manage to that expectation.  Digital experience technologies like social media, mobile apps, email, and others make it easy to service new channels, integrate them into existing work teams, and exceed expectations.  These tools help highlight positive events, promote innovative campaigns and gather feedback on existing initiatives.
  2. Enhance customer service. Demand for services from citizens is constantly increasing. By adopting and integrating digital technologies, such as web, mobile, and self-service, government agencies can more easily deliver personalized experiences and balance responsiveness while containing costs. This inherently will lead to increased customer satisfaction while meeting resource constrictions.  We recently partnered with GovLoop to publish a pocket guide, ‘Customer Service 101: Breaking Down What You Need to Know’. It’s a helpful framework for agencies looking to get started, or take their current strategies to the next level.
  3. Promote civic participation: Engage citizens in improving processes – no matter what they are.  Citizens want to feel that they are making a difference. Providing them with a platform to collaborate with government officials through digital channels will lead to the formation of innovative ideas that will create value for all, and increase a sense of belonging to the community.
  4. Empower employees. Like any citizen, government employees embrace the efficiencies and effectiveness of digital technologies in their personal lives.  Empower them to serve citizens with these same services and channels and help them know that they are providing great service. Engaged employees will deliver better experiences to citizens, leading to increased customer and employee satisfaction.

Citizens of the digital age want easy access to the agencies that are important to them. To meet that need, government must aim to modernize and focus on orchestrating personalized interactions with each and every citizen across disparate platforms and devices. They must understand the evolving needs of their customers and then take a customer-centric approach to engage with their audience. By embracing and taking advantage of today’s modern tools  government can then effectively and efficiently serve customers of all ages and in all demographic groups, at home and across the globe.

Franco Amalfi is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply