The following post is an excerpt from GovLoop's recent guide, The Top 30 Government Innovations of 2017.
For many government organizations, creating superior digital services is only half of the innovation battle. They also need to make the public aware of those services and engage citizens in their use.
According to John Duckwitz, Client Success Team Lead at Granicus, “The biggest challenge is engaging with citizens where, when and how they want to communicate.” Granicus provides strategic support and tools to help agencies engage citizens through digital communications. In a recent interview with GovLoop, Duckwitz explained how government agencies can create better services with a targeted, multichannel approach to citizen outreach.
From renewing a driver’s license to filing federal tax returns, there is a full spectrum of services citizens expect from government. It’s up to agencies to figure out how to ensure that each touchpoint meets growing citizen expectations and aligns with their organizational missions.
For the government communicator — the person engaging with the customer and delivering those services — the biggest challenge lies in “owning the touchpoints that are within your sphere of influence, and making sure you’re collaborating with the other departments in your agency,” said Duckwitz.
The first step for agencies aiming to improve customer experience is to clearly define their desired outcomes and priorities. Those goals range from enhancing public awareness, to increasing citizen engagement to transforming online services.
Next, agencies should expand their reach and try to get ahead of the digital communications curve. “Ask yourself if you’re offering the public as many opportunities as possible to connect with your agency,” Duckwitz said. “Communicate via social media, offer people the ability to find and easily access services on your website and proactively follow up with constituents.”
The third step is focusing on growing citizen engagement, which means identifying the right channels to connect with your audience and choosing the right type of content. This can involve personalizing communications and using clear and relatable imagery that drives your agency’s desired outcomes. Using data analytics — such as testing email open rates at different times of the day or assessing if people are navigating to the correct tools on your website from the information they receive via email or SMS — also plays a key role in helping to iterate content over time and make communications more effective.
To truly improve the way they meet the demands of a wide and diverse citizen audience, agencies must engrain customer service across every department and ensure that services flow across multiple channels. Creating an agency-wide culture of customer service is the responsibility of every employee.
Duckwitz offered several examples of this idea in action. The National Health Service Corps (NHSC), for instance, demonstrated how a holistic, multichannel effort can successfully improve citizen engagement and impact public health. The NHSC’s Corps Community Month campaign, one of the winners of the 2017 Granicus Digital Strategy Awards, aimed to create awareness of the federal program in order to recruit healthcare providers to serve communities in need and reach patients with limited access to care. Through targeted outreach and a multi-pronged approach, the NHSC increased its number of supporters by over 500 percent and created a full engagement experience for over 410,000 program participants.
Granicus also recognized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for its rapid emergency response to the Zika virus. Knowing that a majority of smartphone users access health and travel information on their phones, the CDC used Interactive Text to provide international travelers with critical information about Zika risk and prevention. The program reached 20,000 subscribers in six months, and survey results indicated high customer satisfaction rates with the texting initiative.
Finally, Duckwitz described Leon County, Fla.’s campaign aimed to inform and prepare its residents for emergency weather events like hurricanes and tropical storms. In a far-reaching awareness and digital communications campaign, Leon County sent out over 1 million emergency notifications and communicated the importance of staying connected in times of emergency. As a result, Leon County saw an increase of 5,341 citizen subscribers to its GovDelivery Communications platform – increasing the number of prepared citizens for future emergency-related events.
As these case studies demonstrate, the key to customer service success in 2018 and beyond is a strategic, multichannel approach to engagement.
As Duckwitz emphasized, “Agency priorities and individual mandates might change, but the most important thing is maintaining a consistent user experience and high level of customer service throughout your entire organization.”
Read the full Top 30 Innovations of 2017 guide, here.