This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide “State and Local Government: 8 Tech Challenges and Solutions.” In it, we provide an overview of case studies from governments across the country. Download the full guide here.
While state and local government leaders recognize the importance of providing better customer service, there are a number of challenges to achieving consistent, positive citizen experiences throughout each agency.
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 state and local 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,” Duckwitz said.
The first step for agencies aiming to improve customer experience is to clearly define their desired outcomes and priorities. These 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 growing citizen engagement, which means identifying the right channels to connect with your audience and choosing the right type of content. This means 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 ingrain customer service across every department and ensure that services ow 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 County of San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency, for instance, demonstrates how a collective, multichannel effort can successfully improve digital engagement. The “Live Well San Diego” initiative, one of the winners of the 2017 Granicus Digital Strategy Awards, aimed to encourage more active lifestyles for the county’s 3.3 million residents by partnering with healthcare providers, community and faith-based organizations, businesses, school districts and other departments. Through digital promotion and daily notifications, emails and text messages, Live Well San Diego connected with and empowered thousands of residents to take positive action for their health, safety and well-being.
Granicus also recognized Leon County, Florida, for making a concerted effort to inform and prepare its residents for emergency weather events such as 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 informed and prepared citizens for future emergency-related events.
Finally, Duckwitz described the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT)’s recent campaign. After three TDOT workers were killed by distracted drivers in 2016, the department aimed to raise awareness of highway worker safety to avoid future tragedies. The campaign included multiple digital communications tools, videos, graphics, web-based information, highway message boards and social media posts. These targeted messages have reached more than 269,000 people and garnered nearly 81,000 video views because of their broad scope.
As these state and local examples demonstrate, the key to customer service success is a strategic, multichannel approach to engagement.
“People need to take a multichannel approach to customer experience,” 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.”