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Transforming the Federal Citizen Experience

How do we reach more citizens and get them to truly engage with our services?

That’s the question on nearly every government leader’s mind as they confront a changing technology landscape and new customer demands. At this morning’s Digital Engagement Breakfast, Natalie Fedie, VP of Client Success and Professional Services at GovDelivery, offered a few answers for how agencies can tackle these new challenges.

The state of the citizen experience in government

First, Fedie said that agencies have to double down on customer experience. They need to know what it means, both broadly and within the current, technology-laden landscape.

She defined customer experience as “the entirety of interaction between an organization and a customer over the duration of the relationship.” This relationship can be broken into multiple stages, including awareness, consideration, purchase, use, and advocacy.

In the private sector, this customer experience is often called the virtual journey, which is unsurprising when you consider how consumer behavior is becoming more online-focused. Fedie offered a few data points that show how the landscape of customer services is changing:

  • 70% of customer’s experience is completed before you’re aware they’re attempting to engage with you (Kapost)
  • By 2015, more Americans will use mobile devices to access information, rather than desktop computers(whitehouse.gov)
  • 74% of online adults use social media (Pew Research)
  • The average adult attention span is 8 seconds (National Center for Biotechnology Information)

More and more, consumers are expecting to access services remotely and quickly. And those expectations are no different when the consumer is a citizen and the service comes from a government agency. Now, the public sector is held to as high a standard as the private sector when it comes to customer experience.

The importance of digital engagement

As you start working toward a better customer experience, your efforts  will likely focus on digital solutions, rather than traditional face-to-face government processes, given the preferences of today’s citizens. But don’t think of this increased reliance on digital services as a burden on your programs. Instead, think of them as a way to not only retain citizen consumers, but to truly engage them in your agency and its services.

Fedie explained that digital engagement is the key to improving customer experience in the short and long term. When deployed effectively, it allows you to:

Reach more people. You can  build a massive audience with tools like the GovDelivery Network, which don’t force people to sign up for mandatory services. Instead, these digital tools help you give citizens information they want and encourage them to sign up for more.

Onboard new users. Effective digital engagement leverages the opportunity available when a citizen signs up for a service to continue communication. Establish brand and articulate value when you first reach a citizen, so that they know what to expect in future interactions.

Target and personalize information. Once your citizen user starts interacting with your service, gather key information to create personalized experiences that meet their needs. This doesn’t require collecting personally identifiable information. Instead, segment by clear interests or basic demographic information – both of which are likely available through your existing web analytics tools.

Re-engage dormant users. Never stop learning about your customers. Use constant feedback and analytics to continuously improve outreach and drive increased conversion to your services. This is key to keeping citizens engaged, even as their immediate need for your services wanes.

Convert users to actors. If you always have a call to action in your communications, you can drive better outcomes for a dynamic audience. As Fedie pointed out, an email open rate is different than actually engaging your user in a message. Track and increase conversion with digital engagement.

Your first steps
So how do you achieve these results and provide great customer experience? Fedie outlined three steps to improved customer service:

1. Understand the citizen journey. Map the journey of how your citizen customer enters and interacts with your services. Identify touchpoints where citizens connect directly with your service, as well as breakpoints where you might decrease or lose engagement due to poor customer service. Both these touchpoints and breakpoints are where you’ll want to focus your customer service efforts.

2. Implement front and backend solutions. Customer service requires both internal and external solutions. On the front end, consider creating data portals, landing pages, and webpages that allow people to access information easier, in a more intuitive way. Whenever you can, provide self-service channels that allow citizens to take action without agency assistance. Take this a step further and provide proactive notifications and status updates, based on what you learned in your customer mapping. On the backend, make sure you have the staff and training in place to support these solutions.

3. Measure satisfaction and manage performance. Once you have your services in place, make sure to collect feedback on how citizens interact with them. Combine that feedback with internal data to get real, holistic insights into how your services are working. Then, make that data transparency. According to Fedie, this transparency can enhance customer satisfaction just as much as the services themselves because “If agencies can tell story with data, it helps people understand the impact that agency is making… it may even help change behavior.”

Your next steps
As you walk through those first steps, you’ll likely come upon new digital tactics like email campaigns, A/B testing, and list segmentation. Strategies like these can be powerful ways to provide customer experience and create digital engagement. Never heard of them? That’s ok. Kind of know what they are, but aren’t sure how to execute them? That’s ok, too.

For help understanding how to deploy effective digital engagement strategies, email us at [email protected]

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