To better serve citizens, agencies need ensure the technology they deploy is laser focused on serving customers’ needs, IT experts said.
Federal agencies don’t have the best reputation for providing citizens with the best customer service, a point that gets drilled home each time Forrester Research’s Customer Experience Index features agencies at the bottom of the list. But as agencies consider overhauling customer service operations, they should let their desired outcome guide whether to use chatbots, automation, self-service channels or other new tools.
“If you think technology is going to solve your problems, it’s not,” said Anna Rigney-Phillips, chief of financial support for the Veterans Affairs Department's Financial Service Center.
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“If we think about what our customer is looking for, what are their expectations, then I bet we’re going to make the right technology decisions and not waste money on technology that doesn’t really solve the problem that we were looking to solve,” she said at the "Government Empowered" event organized by Pegasystems and Government Executive Media Group.
As agencies transform call centers into digital operations, here are other tips to keep in mind:
1. Break down big projects into small pieces.
As his team was modernizing various municipal systems, New Jersey Courts Chief Information Officer Jack McCarthy said they divided the larger objective into manageable pieces.
“Anything that became more than two- to three-month effort became a new project,” he said.
2. Get feedback from staff.
Though some staff members were initially nervous about the new technology FSC rolled out, Rigney-Phillips said many of them embraced it and saw they value they could bring to the new tools. They also were able to pinpoint issues that improved new processes.
3. Focus on self-service channels.
Self-service channels, like websites or mobile apps, can help alleviate congested call centers by serving up frequently sought after information.
Such channels let customers to get the information they need when they need it, said Chris Coppenbarger, a system owner for Agriculture Department's grant management.
4. Don’t miss major trends.
No one expects government to be cool, said Accenture’s Ira Entis, but it can’t ignore major trends. By now, he said agencies should be serving the citizens who expect access on their mobile phones since Apple’s first iPhone debuted almost a decade ago.
5. Customers don’t give government agencies a pass for bad service.
Consumer brands like Amazon and Uber set how citizens expect to be treated, said Pegasystems’ Jeff Nicholson. “Your competition is the customer’s last great experience, not your direct competitor," he said.