Self-Service Government

Back in 2004, I was involved in the creation of my department’s website which coincided with the actual launch of the department. We were lucky because our department began at a time when websites were becoming common in government, and our director knew how important that website would be for our customers. Not everyone was sold on the idea, some pointed to the lack of email addresses for our towns and counties and asked whether it was fair to use a website to replace traditional government letterhead and correspondence.

But then, an amazing thing happened. Within one year of our website launch, 100 percent of our county and town constituents had email addresses. Why? Because they, like the rest of us, liked the speed of an email response and being able to check for the latest grant announcements online. Our website had great traffic and we took fewer calls for basic information simply because a self-service option was available to our constituents.

Fast forward to today. Unlike 2004, our current government constituents have technology expectations. They use social media, they shop online and they use kiosks everywhere – the movie theatre, ATM, airport, etc. How can government keep up with the expectations of constituents?

With proven technologies like ECM and document management now being applied in new ways, government can meet these expectations while navigating reduced budget and staffing levels. We needed the vision of a website back in 2004 to be a modern and responsive state agency, and today, we need a vision of self-service to get us through the “new normal” of smaller budgets.

Like the Web, ECM strategies present so many options for government that it could be easy to overlook the obvious support that ECM provides for self-service. Self-service is not only a way to help maintain constituent service levels with less staff – it is an absolute expectation of today’s citizens.

So, how can ECM help? Here are five ways:

  1. Online services
    From taking a 3-1-1 request to applying for assistance to requesting a building permit, ECM can help government launch a paperless process. This means that the online request is immediately routed to a staff person without printing and filing, and the request can be worked on by more than one person at a time, speeding up a process. The result? Faster and cheaper government service without making a constituent travel to your office during business hours.
  2. Public record requests
    Using your ECM solution search function, which can be embedded in your website, constituents can search for documents themselves without waiting to make a records request and without staff having to stand at photocopy machines rather than doing other tasks. The result? Constituents can serve themselves, and your government operations are more transparent.
  3. Point-of-service kiosks
    The Web is one way constituents can get their information. But what if they don’t have internet access? Kiosks are a great way to take payments, route applicants and begin processes at the point-of-service. And with some ECM solutions hooking into kiosks, agencies can provide better service by making it possible for customers to start the transaction themselves. The result? They can focus staff time on harder tasks that require human interaction and allow other transactions to be taken care of entirely by a kiosk, reducing wait times and sending customers away happy about the speed of their transaction.
  4. Smart phones
    As you explore this option for your agency, consider that some ECM vendors have mobile apps for the BlackBerry, iPhone, Windows Phone 7 and Android phones, as well as support mobile devices like the iPad. With these technologies expanding and with their lower hardware costs, they provide a viable option for self-service, as well as supporting government field staff.
  5. eCommerce
    This pay-for-documents portal, which leverages ECM, allows you to configure and deploy a document service that is web-based. In traditional records requests, many jurisdictions are allowed to recover costs for printing or providing the document. Using your ECM solution with this eCommerce component means constituents can search for documents and then pay to download them, helping you recover the costs of your ECM solution while providing another self-service option to constituents.

ECM empowers you to provide more self-service options – an expectation of today’s constituents. With the right solution, the expectations of your constituents and the realities of your budget can be met with an ECM-based, responsive self-service solution.

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