How government agencies can provide multi-channel experience for citizens

  • Posted on August 5, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 6 minutes
Multi-channel Customer Experience For Citizens

In their quest for convenience, citizens are demanding more customer-centred government services that better reflect their interactions with commercial brands. A 2020 survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group found two-thirds of Australians expect government services to be as good as those from global digital leaders, like Apple or Google, or the best private sectors companies, like banks and airlines.

It’s a simple enough idea, but for governments struggling to do more with less or the same, execution is far from easy.

Citizens want to be able to engage seamlessly with government across multiple channels. Whether filling out a web form, messaging with a virtual agent or talking to a contact centre agent, people expect tailored interactions that reflect what government knows about them. They also want to be able to help themselves, at their convenience – and on their choice of device.

At a public sector event that Avanade hosted in collaboration with Sitecore in July 2021, government leaders from some of Australia’s largest agencies shared their citizen engagement success stories. While it was great to see these Australian agencies taking a more citizen-centric approach, others are still at the beginning of their journey.

In a poll conducted with participants at the event:

  • 94% are still identifying areas of improvement or in the process of creating their roadmap and strategy. Given the acceleration of digital services during the pandemic, and the well-trodden path now available to government agencies, it’s time to accelerate investment in multi-channel capabilities.
  • 79% prioritise improving their use of data and insights to identify citizen needs in the next 12-18 months, but 45% said their maturity in data capabilities is a challenge. As long as agencies continue to use Excel spreadsheets and lack a common data source, using data-driven insights and automation will be a distant dream.
  • 62% said developing the right culture to underpin their vision and improving collaboration has delivered the most successful impact to-date. The positive affect of a citizen-centric mindset and culture cannot be overstated. Success starts with getting the culture right from top to bottom.

Avanade and Accenture have worked with leading public and private organisations around the world, helping them transform citizen and customer interactions using human-centric design and multi-channel engagement strategies. In our experience, five key learnings consistently make a difference in terms of engagement success.

  1. Ensure design principles are based on citizen data and insights
    We often find people closest to a particular process have a hypothesis about where the biggest opportunities are for improvement. This is usually a good data point, and sometimes completely on the money. However, it’s critical to validate this using a data-driven approach to understand what citizens are looking for and their needs. Some organisations invest in technology solutions without fully understanding the customer or citizen needs. By harnessing data and analytics to inform and build their transformation roadmap, agencies can expect a significantly higher chances of delivering on strategic outcomes.

    For example, when we worked with a European revenue commission (our ATO equivalent), the agency was looking to transform the way it engaged with citizens. By using a data-driven approach to understand intent and the customer needs, we found that 75% of citizens wanted to engage with the agency when and how they wanted, 24/7, without the need to pick up the phone to speak to an agent.

    This was a clear mandate for us to focus on self-serve and automated channels, where we were successfully able to deflect 200k+ enquiries each year from contact centres to virtual agents, reducing the cost to serve, delivering a flexible, 24/7, seamless and enhanced citizen experience.

  2. Understand your segments and the propositions they require
    Because governments serve all citizens, their users are the most diverse groups that any organisation deals with. For government services to be fit for purpose, it’s important to categorise users into segments, but without taking a scatter-gun approach. Rather than having too many narrowly defined segments, governments need to find groups with similar wants and needs. These tend to be more strongly defined by age than geography; for example, offering senior citizens or carers information about aged care packages and relevant services. That said, regional versus metropolitan can be another lens.

    More importantly, we also need to ensure that we provide the same level of service for those with a limited digital footprint or choose not to share their data. We must respect all citizens equally.

  3. Focus on the right channels not every channel
    Not every citizen needs a high-touch channel for every action. We have seen many clients trying to focus on every channel, which can be expensive and may not deliver a proportionate return on investment. Focusing on the right channels based on customer or citizen needs is key.

    We saw this phenomenon at work at a leading Australian energy retailer. This company knew it had a problem with attrition when its customers moved houses. The process to register a move was so complex and lengthy that 36% of customers found it easier to switch providers than move with their existing retailer. Customer interviews revealed a strong appetite for intuitive self-service via website and mobile in the shortest time possible versus having to call their contact centre or complete clunky forms.

    In partnership with Sitecore, we created a user-friendly interface, available through mobile and web, that auto- populated forms, reducing the total time to register a move and transfer an account to under a minute. Delivered in just eight weeks, the system has dramatically improved the user experience and attrition rapidly slowed.

    Although this work was for a corporate client, it could just as easily have been a government agency spinning up an enhanced experience in a very short timeframe.

  4. Start with the experience not the technology
    It’s tempting to start with a digital solution in mind, like virtual agents, IVR or self-service. But this is the wrong way round. Technology is only an enabler. Every change should start with the intended outcome – what do citizens want and value and, therefore, what experience are you looking to deliver for various services and how do your citizens want to engage with the department. Answering these questions by engaging with your citizens is recommended to be the first step.

  5. Store experiences to allow continuous improvement
    Many agencies struggle with using data and analytics to continuously measure, track and improve customer engagement. Every time a citizen interacts with the government, they offer information that can help to better personalise their experience next time. Some changes are minor – a slightly adjusted tax form to cater for those who regularly claim rebates for work uniforms. Some are major – notifications about childhood vaccinations and information on playgroups for new parents.

Citizens are demanding government services to the same standard, if not better, than private sector organisations. With private sector organisations rapidly evolving and innovating, government agencies must keep up.

As government agencies look to transform their culture and mindset to be more citizen-centric, they need to convert the wealth of data they possess into actionable insights and drive personalisation – using rapid speed to value solutions and platforms to deliver a seamless and multi-channel experience.

Government agencies have all the pieces of the jigsaw at their disposal to successfully execute a multi-channel experience. It’s time to rapidly start putting together the pieces to provide the level of service citizens demand.

Learn more about how we have helped government agencies maximize the efficiency of citizen services and innovate experiences in a world of continual change.

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