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Future-Proof Citizen Engagement with Intelligent Help Centers

Many agencies were caught flat-footed when the pandemic hit. They were unprepared and unable to quickly respond to rapidly shifting circumstances. Having survived the initial crisis, agencies turned to assessing their technological capabilities, particularly as they relate to constituent engagement and preparedness for the next unforeseen disruption.

The increased use of digital tools during the pandemic provided for continuity of government. In the bargain, government agencies became more aware — painfully so at times — of legacy systems’ inability failures to support increased demands for constituent engagement. Out of necessity, agencies adopted new technology and communication channels.

That’s because underperforming legacy systems can undermine customer service in ways that make government — and democracy itself — less robust. When communication between government and people being governed suffers, that deterioration, in turn, diminishes citizen engagement and community buy-in of government activities.

As has been demonstrated often in the past year, citizens will be heard. If government’s legacy IT systems are ill-equipped to engage constituents, they will find other means.

“Louder or more insistent voices become the ones who are most likely to be heard,” said Maria Country, Vice President of Sales for Public Sector at Zendesk. “Without a centralized platform for communication, metrics on what constituents are most concerned about become challenging to receive.”

Failed communications systems can further perpetuate systemic inequalities and other challenges that citizens expect government to solve.

“Citizens are feeling the need to be heard amid a tense political and social environment,” Country said. “Citizen engagement and participation are crucial to community buy-in and incorporating citizen voices into decision-making.”

The Solution: Intelligent Help Centers

Digital transformation isn’t a one-time event but a process of evolution.

Many federal, state and local agencies are taking the first steps in that direction, moving from legacy platforms to cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) systems. As agencies seek to increase staff productivity, improve the management of services and make those services more effective and accessible, a modern SaaS solution can accelerate attainment of those goals.

As agencies plan for the future, Country recommends that they focus on three pillars:

1. Enable self-service. Allowing constituents to access information and services without the involvement of a government worker has major benefits, including happier customers and lower transaction costs.

2. Streamline all customer communication into a single platform, no matter where the customer reaches out. A seemingly operational adjustment, in this case channel consolidation, yields big results, including greater efficiency, fewer miscommunications and a clearer view of actions happening within the system.

3. Integrate with systems to create a unified view of your customer. Integrating with other systems opens the potential for customer engagement and service that are unattainable in a more fragmented system.

Increasingly, intelligent help centers are capable of providing constituents with fast answers to urgent questions. Integrated support allows constituents to easily move from a self-service help center to help via chat, email or phone. Recognizing the value of these advanced tools, government agencies are focused on how quickly they can scale those capabilities to meet constituents’ needs and deliver value to taxpayers.

“By broadening how agencies interact with constituents, they will be able to serve more individuals from a more diversified background,” Country said. “Constituents will also now be accustomed to having new channels of communication with government agencies.”

This report is an excerpt from GovLoop’s report, “Better Constituent Engagement for Better Government.” Download the full report here.

Photo credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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