With the government’s botched rollout of HealthCare.gov, it may be difficult to imagine a future where federal agencies effectively leverage technology to better serve the American public. Yet a vast majority of public-facing government employees believe that by 2020, technology will make that vision a reality.
A new GovLoop survey of more than 250 federal, state and local employees who consider their work to be customer service-related or oriented found that technology holds the keys for ultimately ending the negative perceptions many in the public have about government service.
By 2020, many of those negative perceptions may be put to rest as the analysis and use of big data along with Web-based and mobile platforms radically transform the way government agencies deliver customer service, respondents noted. Among the most promising technologies were improved website design, search and navigation (72 percent), live online chat (52 percent), mobile applications across multiple devices (39 percent), engagement via social media (36 percent) and online discussion forums (33 percent).
Respondents cited a number of hurdles agencies must overcome in order to reign in this promising customer service future in the next six years, however. Many cited a lack of consistency as the biggest challenge, while inadequate budget and staffing, confusing language for customers, a lack of integrated data and resources and archaic technology and reporting systems also were considered significant challenges to improving customer service going forward.
“Roughly one-third of participants, when asked about their most memorable customer service experience in government, responded critically,” the report states. “Respondents complained about a lack of human contact and unwillingness to meet customers’ needs.”
Still, that same question about respondents’ most memorable customer service experience also led to some signs of improvement in the ways government customer service is delivered today. Respondents cited the increased interaction on social media as well as prompt human responses to questions, even if just to say “I’ll get back to you,” as positive developments for government in serving customers.
Meanwhile, five main trends will emerge as government moves into this customer-focused future. Self-service opportunities, from grocery store kiosks to online applications, will allow citizens to access, process and monitor their government requests on a more widespread and frequent basis. Citizen engagement and partnership efforts that empower citizens will also become more prevalent. Mobile applications, increased social media interactions and the expansion of live, online chats also will radically change the way government delivers services in the next five to ten years.
“Customer service will work like Google search,” one respondent noted in the report. “When I want to know something, I ‘Google’ it. Our customers will be able to attain answers just that quickly, using a search, and then if the ‘Google search’ approach doesn’t yield results, they will be able to access a person easily and quickly.”