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Modernizing the Citizen Experience

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide, “7 State & Local Tech Trends to Watch.” Download the full guide here.

There’s a wide divide between the digital services offered by the public and private sectors. Commercial retail is increasingly moving to satisfying and experiential offerings for customers. Conversely, many state and local governments provide outdated, impersonal transactions to their citizens.

Governments can catch up by modernizing their online services, web presence and communications strategies. These investments can create seamless, digital services that help them better reach, inform and engage their constituents.

In a recent interview with GovLoop, Shawn Pillow, Director of Sales Enablement at Granicus, explained why citizen engagement is crucial for the public sector. Granicus is a leading provider of cloud-based solutions that empower governments to better serve citizens.

“If you meet and exceed the expectations that your citizens have for online services, a web presence and the type of communications that they receive, those interactions can be transformative,” Pillow said. “It helps citizens identify more closely with their community, it gets them more involved and it can make their lives better.”

Modernizing digital services starts with accessibility. Offerings that confuse, disappoint or inconvenience citizens are poor investments for governments. “The experience needs to be intuitive, or people won’t adopt it,” Pillow said.

Bad citizen experiences have traditionally featured detached bureaucracies presenting what they think their citizens want rather than meeting their needs. Today’s governments are finding that their constituents crave highly individualized engagements that focus on their personal necessities. This shift is a win-win for each side.

“Digital experiences for governments should be a relationship-based interaction,” Pillow said.

Searchability is crucial for accessibility as it helps citizens navigate their governments’ websites and access their required information. It also informs agencies about their constituents’ interests and how to best address them.

Proactive communication strategies also improve the citizen experience. Governments who actively respond to their constituents ultimately develop effective methods for successfully engaging with them long-term. Many organizations have stumbled, however, by focusing on the quantity of digital services rather than quality. These agencies overwhelm citizens rather than offering them fulfilling outcomes.

Commercial retail offers state and local governments additional lessons about improving the citizen experience. Companies like Apple and Amazon have designed experiential web properties for interacting with their customers and facilitating their transactions. These businesses also utilize consumer marketing for their outreach methods. Finally, these entities have deployed automation and improved accessibility for better customer service, improved employee engagement and efficiency.

“Manual processes that can be automated free up employees to do more meaningful work with their time,” Pillow said.

Top hotels offer valuable lessons to state and local governments struggling with such digital services. These companies enhance the customer experience by providing customers with their preferences based off past behavior. For example, providing their favorite toothpaste or setting rooms at a temperature they’re most comfortable in. Agencies can do this, too.

“Think about the full lifecycle of someone’s experiences rather than a point of interaction and what story that holistic view tells,” Pillow said. “Government services that are done well are designed the same way and oriented around the citizen’s story. It can be transformative.”

More than 4,000 government agencies use Granicus to modernize their online services, web presence and communications strategies. Granicus can help governments take the citizen experiences they deliver to the next level. Their solutions include digitizing paper records and online portals with improved searchability. Additional offerings help constituents access government functions more easily and provide a platform for active, satisfying public outreach.

“These solutions overcome the problem of creating an excellent experience that no one ends up using,” Pillow said of citizens adopting their government’s digital services.

Technology helps state and local governments directly interact with their citizens more personally. It also enables the modern communication strategies, online services and web presences necessary for the best constituent experiences. This produces closer communities where the line between governments and the public disappears.

“Modern citizen experiences make constituents connected to their governments in a voluntary way while actually identifying with them,” Pillow said.

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