Six Steps for Citizen-Centric Experiences in the Expectation Economy

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Recently, I ordered an Amazon Kindle book from my smartphone by mistake. I realised the error but didn’t know how to cancel the order. So I clicked “Contact Us,” and immediately the Amazon messaging assistant sprang to life to qualify my query and offered to connect me to a customer service agent. “Hello, Mr. Pitamber, good afternoon! How are you? I see that you would like to cancel your Kindle book order,” said the friendly voice from somewhere in the Philippines. I explained the situation briefly, and in less than a minute the agent confirmed cancellation of my order and that I would receive email notification of the refund. An excellent experience that lasted about 4 or 5 minutes; no waiting for customer service to answer or being placed on hold for 10 minutes, no piano solo of the Backstreet Boys or even more frustrating: “We are currently experiencing high call volumes. Please continue to hold, and the next available agent will answer your call.”

Technology empowers us to be better informed but also makes us less patient and more demanding than ever before. If Amazon or Uber give me exceptional customer service, then that is what I expect from every company or brand I interact with, regardless of size or industry. That’s the expectation economy in action. According to Gladly’s 2018 Customer Service Expectations Survey, 92% of consumers said they would stop purchasing from a company after three or fewer poor customer service experiences.

 

Can local governments improve citizens’ experience?

As citizens, we don’t have many options when accessing public services because they are not available elsewhere. However, we still have the same high expectations for excellent service delivery that includes faster responses to queries, consistent service across all communication channels and self-service access to more information when interacting with the public sector organisation. These requirements are the prerequisite for local authorities to deliver citizen-centric services. However, tighter budgets and increased citizen demands have made it even harder for governments to provide high-quality services in recent years.

In spite of these obstacles, forward-thinking councils are actively exploring digital tools and technologies as part of digital transformation initiatives to do things differently and embrace change. Council leaders now understand the value and outcomes digital technology can deliver for constituents and councils.

By tapping into innovation funding sources like the £7.5 million Local Digital Fund, local authorities can implement the Local Digital Declaration to support digital skills training and projects that truly evolve and deliver services, making a real difference to council employees, local businesses and citizens. The fact is that most UK councils now offer a number of digital services, but the real challenge is disparate legacy systems and technologies that discourage seamless workflows and cost too much.

 

Service innovation from the cloud

Service innovation using cloud communications tools offers benefits not only to citizens through quicker interactions and faster responses, but also simplifies internal council processes through better collaboration and data-driven insights, equipping frontline council staff and their managers with better information and more time to use their expertise and engage their communities more effectively.

Combining voice, video, messaging and contact centre capabilities onto a single platform gives citizens what they expect – options to connect with public services a way that suits them, just as they would with their favourite online brand. A consolidated cloud platform also facilitates a better self-service model, that provides rapid access to citizen queries, reducing calls into contact centres, ultimately saving taxpayers money.

 

Citizen-centric experiences

A smooth end-to-end citizen-centric experience is hard to find, even though councils are engaging with citizens through online channels.

However, by using modern cloud-based communications services, local authorities are slowly taking up the challenge of purposely designing, building and delivering public services from the citizen’s point of view and making them accessible anywhere, anytime and from any device. This shows respect for the customer’s time and engagement – no more a one-size-fits-all approach.

Here are six steps for local authorities to consider when designing citizen-centric experiences, based on our knowledge of helping local government organisations up and down the country:

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1. Give citizens a choice
Citizens want answers fast. They are accustomed to finding consumer-related information themselves. The same applies to local public services – in addition to information from webpages or mobile apps, give them options to access the information they need through self-service mechanisms using AI-driven chatbots, real-time web messaging or even video helpdesks.
Research shows AI-driven experiences are achieving dramatic results for organisations, including a 99% reduction in customer service times, 10 point improvement in customer satisfaction.

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2. Empower frontline staff
Frontline council staff need access to the same information seen by the public. These customer service agents need the right tools to interact with citizens using any communication channel and have access to historical information from previous interactions.

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3. Create and update your knowledge base
Create and organise scripted answers for your organisation’s knowledge base for all the different public services available. This creates consistency and accuracy for frontline staff to answer general queries. Citizen responses must be short and easy for customer service teams to articulate. This format also works for AI-powered chatbot, video help desk and smartphone interactions. Knowledge base information should be updated frequently and reviewed periodically to ensure continued relevance.

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4. Capture feedback
Citizens are accustomed to providing feedback for online service. Capturing their feedback will help to understand their sentiments on public services so that further actions can be taken to improve or update the service.

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5. Create citizen-centric experiences
Local government silos can make citizens feel like a pinball bouncing around various departments to find the right answers. If councils use a single resident identity, that will go a long way toward unifying the citizen experience. Workflow design and automation mean that citizens’ files can advance to the next department seamlessly.

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6. Use analytics
Measuring success in the public sector is vital, especially as funding cuts persist and demand rises. Advanced analytics gives leaders, managers and frontline staff valuable insights that help in introducing new services or optimising existing ones.

 

Embracing the future

I spoke about the expectation economy at the beginning of this post and how it has made us more demanding as consumers, groomed to expect the best by online giants like Amazon, Google or Uber. As citizens, we also expect five-star experiences every time we interact with our councils or use public services, but the reality is that it can take time to transform local governments, and more than anything, it requires a commitment to delighting your constituents and making that a priority, using the right channels. The time for local councils to start is right now.

Find out how 8x8 can help you manage citizen interactions through any channel, by contacting our dedicated public sector team at [email protected], call 0333 043 8888 or visit 8x8.com/uk-public-sector

Mayur Pitamber

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Mayur is a Senior Solutions Marketing Manager at 8x8, a leading cloud communications provider. Mayur is responsible for creating and driving awareness of 8x8 solution propositions across the EMEA region. He has more than 20 years of product marketing and product management experience from some of the best known hi-tech companies including Insight, Polycom, Cisco, Skype, T-Mobil [...] Read More >

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