This is an excerpt from the recent Customer Service Playbook for Government. In the guide, we detail six plays to help you transform the way your agency serves its citizen users.
Despite government investing more time, resources, and knowledge into their customer service initiatives, constituents still don’t seem to be fully satisfied. According to leading consumer surveys, satisfaction with government services is at an eight-year low and the federal government ranks near the bottom.
There is hope for government, however. In a recent interview, Bill Patterson, General Manager of Microsoft, said there are myriad ways to improve customer service in government – especially if you first build a solid technology foundation.
Through its customer service knowledge-management solutions, Microsoft helps organizations provide easy, organized access to knowledge for real-time customer service and response, deliver consistent answers and information across teams and departments, and reduce handle times and repetitive questions.
Challenges in Government Agencies
When it comes to budget and resources, there simply never seems to be enough in the public sector. Government agencies are often hesitant to invest in newer customer service technologies to the fullest extent because they anticipate huge costs and difficulties meeting the diverse demands of constituents.
The difficulty in investing more resources into customer service initiatives can be attributed to an even larger challenge for government: culture. “Public sector entities tend to think of customer service as an added initiative to invest in,” Patterson said. “It really needs to be thought of as the fabric of what government does.”
Additionally, government agencies may be reluctant to invest in newer technologies that improve customer experience when leaders are comfortable with the way things have always been done.
“Agencies may say, ‘We’ve always invested in technology this way over the last 30 years of our existence,’” Patterson said. “The rate of change as consumers, however, is accelerating. Meanwhile, the rate of change inside the organization is still on the same pace as when technology first entered the arena.”
Government must think differently in order to keep up with current technology and the demands of customers.
Simple Steps to Better Customer Service
Though budget and resources are always scarce, Patterson noted that government customer service can greatly improve by taking the following simple steps with customer service technologies:
Step 1. Listen. Consumer feedback should drive customer technology strategies. Therefore, the first and most cost-effective measure that government agencies can take is to listen. Social media and other forms of engagement are great ways to hear what your customers are saying. “Change happens first by listening, and then acting,” Patterson said. “Most organizations still struggle to listen to their customers on social media, where posts and feedback can become an epidemic quickly.”
Step 2. Assemble knowledge-based platforms. Government agencies should focus on harnessing knowledge and unifying it into one place or platform to deliver consistent, easily accessible information.
“Embedded in that customer service solution is an enterprise knowledge management application,” Patterson said. “The goal of that knowledge application is to fundamentally change the way in which questions and answers are both standardized and shared across an organization at large."
This consistent knowledge foundation can really help kick-start investment into more sophisticated customer service technologies. With Microsoft customer service solutions, agencies can better manage, track and respond to interactions with customers. For example, with a one-stop platform, agencies like the DMV could centralize their service data and interactions to more efficiently help those who need to update their licenses. Agencies can also improve how they address issues, provide proactive information, create benchmarks, and excel in the future.
Step 3. Turn knowledge into engagement solutions. Once you’ve listened to your customers and collected knowledge in platform-based tools, it’s time to turn tactics into solutions. This is where it’s important to choose how you define your organization’s business process while making it more customer-centric. “Most organizations think of staffing customer service and look at how many phones are needed,” Patterson said. “But today, only about 45-55% of customers prefer using the phone as a way of attaining service. If half of your customers don’t want to be on the phone with you, why would you design your whole business process that way?”
The Social Security Administration, for example, deploys self-service technology so customers can easily look up the answers to their questions. “When you search online how to get a new Social Security card, you are actually searching a Microsoft knowledge base solution where the Social Security Administration has proactively provided the answer to frequently–asked questions,” Patterson said. “For government, this means eliminating the need for thousands, perhaps millions of individuals to call or email this government agency, which saves time and money and ultimately increases customer satisfaction.”
The ultimate goal is for government agencies to address constituents’ issues in the swiftest and most efficient manner, reducing effort while increasing satisfaction. And technology is helping government get there.
To find out more ways to foster better customer service at your agency, be sure to check out The Customer Service Playbook for Government.