A Strategic Approach to Customer Communications

The following post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide, Defining Your Role in Government Customer Service.

Interview with John Duckwitz, Customer Experience Team Lead at Granicus

When it comes to creating consistent, impactful citizen experiences, all levels of government face many challenges. But according to John Duckwitz, Customer Experience Team Lead at Granicus, “The biggest challenge for government communicators – even government as a whole – 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, Duckwitz explained why government organizations often require that external support to reimagine the way they approach citizen services.

For government, the task of effectively communicating with customers can feel overwhelming. “When you think about how to communicate, you have to consider where to automate processes, how to reach people with different levels of digital capabilities, and how to remain compliant with multiple accessibility and privacy regulations – even as you map touchpoints to a wide variety of citizens,” Duckwitz explained. ‘There’s a whole list of things that your agency communicators must consider at once.”

But with the right approach, agencies can tackle all of these objectives while also effectively engaging users. “When we engage with government communicators on these bigger picture conversations, we try to walk them through a more strategic approach – what we call a citizen experience funnel,” Duckwitz said.

Marketers and salespeople in the private sector are familiar with this funnel approach, by which you define broad outcomes and then distill those objectives into tangible steps that convert business aspirations into consumer actions. Government communicators can use the same process to target and engage citizens.

The citizen experience funnel is broken into five steps. First, leaders and communicators must define the outcomes they wish to achieve through an engagement campaign. These could be focused on enhancing public awareness on an issue, improving citizen involvement in a government service, or more simply promoting revamped online services.

This first step is crucial to narrowing down your communication objectives and messaging, as well as defining what you want successful engagement to look like. Once an outcome is defined, map your current services and messaging to determine what outlets you’re already using, and what other channels could be used to expand the reach of your efforts.

At this stage, some government communicators may again feel that overwhelming uncertainty given the vast array of social media, online and traditional channels available. But Duckwitz cautioned against pursuing every available medium without considering your audience. Once you’ve discovered available communication options, make sure to tailor your channels and messaging.

“What this really means is deciding what are the right channels to connect with certain segments of your audiences, with the right content,” he said.

For example, if you’re trying to remind a largely mobile population about upcoming appointments at a government office, a text message or SMS might be more effective than email or social media bulletins. In contrast, alerting citizens on a subject that requires more understanding and information may be better suited to long-form, traditional channels like email or post.

After determining the appropriate channel for your audience and message, make sure to tailor your content to those aspects. Use language, formats, and messaging that will resonate and engage your audience. Where possible, personalize that content further by connecting it to related government services and information to further engage citizens.

Finally, after you have defined your objectives and tailored your communications to that goal, make sure you’re actually driving the outcomes you established. That requires measuring the impact of the entire communications campaign, as well as smaller details such as the efficacy of certain calls to action, headlines, channel use and even the time of day that messages are sent.

A/B testing, as well as other common strategies used by private sector, can be valuable tools in determining what is and isn’t working. These discoveries can in turn empower communicators to improve their processes and messaging for the next iteration of a campaign.

This ongoing, cyclical development of messaging and communication channels is often the most difficult part for government organizations to understand when it comes to citizen engagement. “Citizens want a consistent experience and they want an improved experience each time they come back to government,” he said. “That’s a change in mindset for government, because it means constantly rethinking and revitalizing the way they do things.”

That’s why Duckwitz recommends seeking a strategic partner like Granicus that can provide both the tools and strategic support to help agencies rethink their communication strategies and better engage their citizens across channels.

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