It’s that time of year again: back to school season is upon us. Though an exciting time, it can also be stressful. I remember going from store to store with my mom hunting to find every item on the endless list of school supplies. Or spending hours in line at the mall purchasing the newest and cutest fall outfits. Back to school shopping always required lots of time, energy, and patience to prepare for the new school year.
Though they still hop from department store to department store, people shop in a much different way than they did ten years ago. More often than not, individuals find what they need from the comfort of their own home by shopping online. Technology has optimized and streamlined a process that used to require a lot of energy and made it as simple as scrolling and clicking a button. What used to take us hours at the mall, now takes minutes on our laptops or tablets.
This evolution represents a real-world example of what Oracle calls the channel shift, which is the tendency to utilize diverse avenues – such as mobile, online, social, telephone and traditional fixed touch-points – to reach the broadest audience base most efficiently and effectively.
The channel shift “marks a redefinition of how citizens relate to government and a proliferation of new routes used to deliver services and information,” Oracle said in “Serving the Citizen Better Online”. It is imperative for public sector organizations embrace the channel shift in order to engage with and encourage the hardest to reach constituents.
Oracle offers several imperatives for why public sectors should pursue diverse technological avenues to interact with customers:
- Citizen expectation: With the rise of technology in the private sector, people have come to expect services to be offered in a variety of formats, such as online and mobile apps.
- Social inclusion: One driver of change is to strive to reach members of all socioeconomic groups. Diverse channels aim to reach formerly excluded populations and provide services to all.
- Collaboration, consolidation and integration: Creating new, streamlined channel eliminates information gaps and overlaps. It also reduces costs and enhances content management.
- Self-service: Providing self-service options eliminates tedious busy work and streamlines agency services. It makes time for employees to spend time on higher priority tasks.
- Empowered personnel: “Integration, management and accessibility of information is key” to making employees feel valuable and appreciated, Oracle said.
- Early intervention and information intelligence: Integrating predictive and business analytics into your agency’s citizen engagement enables smarter, evidence-based decision-making.
- Incremental changes: “Simply putting information at the fingertips of those who need it at the right time could reduce the time and cost of answering questions and resolving issues,” Oracle said. Focus on small changes to make a lasting impact.
- Demographic changes: Shifts in demographics demands a change in communication and engagement techniques. For example, the younger generation and growing immigrant populations have different needs than the older generations.
- Partnership: “Consider how online channels could form a bridge between formal agencies, citizens and other organizations,” Oracle recommends.
Though all of these motives involve integrating new technologies and media channels into your agency’s current organizational structure, technology should not be the primary driver. The channel shift is first and foremost a people first endeavor. “That means re-orienting thinking around the impact on people and how they will experience service,” Oracle said, “before moving on to how and which technology direction could or should be pursued.”
Oracle recommends setting high-level organizational goals when employing a people first strategy, instead of focusing on narrow objectives. Consider how a channel shift can bring better service, better experience, better teamwork or better information dissemination for your constituents.
High-level aims allow flexibility when selecting the best IT solutions to meet your customers’ and agency’s needs. Too narrow an objective may limit the number and effectiveness of appropriate solutions. Oracle recommends mobile apps, smarter websites, personalized services and collaboration tools as potential solutions to enhance citizen engagement.
Budgetary concerns are another concern when considering potential IT solutions. Though cost-savings is important, it is better to make a smart choice that is sustainable into the future. Flexible solutions that integrate with your agency’s current structure will be more reliable than the latest, greatest or cheapest IT trend.
Much like the shopping experience, the way citizens interact with the public sector is undergoing a radical change. Fortunately for public sector organizations, the tools exist for instigating a successful channel shift strategy and enhancing customer experiences are at their fingertips. “This is about doing important things better, in new ways and with fresh ideas,” Oracle said, “not about instituting a technical revolution.”
Oracle offers an optimized and fully integrated stack of business hardware and software systems that helps organizations overcome complexity and unleash innovation.. Check out their Optimize with Oracle group on GovLoop as well as the Technology Sub-Community of which they are a council member.
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