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Pain Points to Improving Citizen Services

This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s industry perspective: Improving the Citizen Experience with Real-Time Data. Download the full report here

Consider the array of digital services rolling out across government, such as College Scorecard, a website that enables users to find and compare schools; and myUSCIS, a new online service that helps users navigate the immigration process. These types of services are constantly iterating, and in some cases agencies can collect feedback from user surveys. But the issue is that they’re often collecting feedback with tools and processes that take months to make data consumable for those who are building the services.

The challenge: acting on timely data.

Trevor DeLew, who heads the Federal Government Team at Qualtrics, highlighted one Qualtrics customer in particular that was collecting 350,000 responses a month from people who used the agency’s digital service. About a dozen full-time people were tasked with analyzing the response data. By the time the data was consumable, the agency had already made numerous changes to the services, so they couldn’t correlate feedback to specific improvements. And this isn’t an isolated issue within a single agency. Currently, this agency relies on Qualtrics to provide access to feedback for all stakeholders in real time. This has resulted in the agency taking action and implementing the improvements in hours of collecting the feedback.

“It’s impossible for government to improve when it is making decisions using data that is at best six months old,” DeLew said.

In many cases, data is either left dormant and not immediately analyzed, or there’s so much data that it takes months to process the information and get it to the right people.

To close that gap and build confidence with citizens that improvements are based on actual feedback, agencies need access to a modern system that makes real-time data widely accessible. Once they receive that data, they also need the ability to make sense of it and to better understand citizen sentiments.

Another pain point for agencies is extracting value from benchmarks. 

Often, agencies get benchmark scores once or twice a year that tell them how they did in a particular area such. But there is little feedback or context around why they received a particular score or grade.

“Benchmarks are very valuable,” DeLew said. “But they’re only actionable if you understand the point in time and what was happening when people provided those scores. Current benchmarks that the government relies on don’t enable that.”

Here’s another way of putting it: Let’s say you studied for an exam for months, and you received a C-. But there were no markings on the test showing what you got right and what you got wrong. To make matters worse, you did not get your results back until six months after you took the exam. How would you improve your grade the next time? It would be nearly impossible.

That’s the same issue the government faces when receiving feedback data only once or twice a year instead of in real time, when it could truly affect its decisions.

Lastly, seeing the citizen’s perspective can also pose challenges for agencies. 

We’ve all been there: An agency or company asks for our feedback, but when we provide that feedback, it seems to fall on deaf ears. The reality is that’s a systematic flaw in government that robs credibility from the feedback process.

Think about it: Why would citizens provide feedback to agencies if they believe that nothing is done with it? They don’t, and the result is agencies are left to guess whether they’re meeting constituents’ needs.

One of the first steps to solving this issue is to view the citizen experience from the citizen’s perspective. That involves under- standing how citizens use your service, what issues they have and what their expectations are for the quality of those services.

“That mindset is often missing not just in the federal government but in a lot of industries,” DeLew said.

To fully embrace the citizen’s perspective, agencies need to drill down into their satisfaction scores until they reach the point where that data is actionable. They may know how well they’re serving citizens at the highest level, but that doesn’t allow them to drill down and fix things, said Dr. Kyle Groff, Principal Research Scientist – VoC (Voice of the Citizen) at Qualtrics.

He explained how Qualtrics worked with JetBlue to understand its satisfaction scores for a certain flight. The company looked at satisfaction scores around that flight, at a specific time of day, at a specific gate.

Customers weren’t happy about concessions being closed for morning flights, which meant they couldn’t buy coffee. Taking action on something as simple as ensuring coffee was available for those early flights allowed JetBlue to turn around the entire experience and improve its scores.

“I would surmise that at the federal level, there are situations like this that exist, where agencies may not need a complete overhaul of a process, product or service,” Groff said. “The solution could be something very small that needs to be tweaked. For example, it could be a website experience issue, or paperwork that needs to be vetted that could turn around and impact the overall experience for an entire agency.”

Screenshot 2016-08-24 11.23.00

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