Martha Dorris is the founder of Dorris Consulting International, focused on delivering an outstanding experience to the public when interacting with or accessing government services. She provides strategic advice to both governments worldwide and private-sector companies on customer experience.
As federal agencies transform digital services, they must ensure customers are satisfied with the entire journey, not just individual touch points. It’s possible to provide a good experience channel by channel but not deliver great a customer experience. That’s where digital services engagement centers come in.
DSECS serve as the connective tissue between all channels. They are at the center of engaging customers, understanding their needs and solving citizens’ problems using many available channels. DSECs maintain the knowledge base that provides answers through the website, the phone, emails, texts and chats.
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DSECs monitor the pulse of customers. They are the key source of information about what is driving customer demand, such as hot topics and customer feedback. This data is—or should be—fed real time to web content teams so websites and frequently asked questions can be updated continuously to meet changing needs, demands and priority issues.
When citizens get to the point they pick up the phone, they often are in a vulnerable place that requires more understanding of their unique situation. DSECs agents provide the “high touch” and can solve problems immediately or escalate to appropriate departments that can help. Two-way communication via chat or telephone for example, provides opportunities to go deeper and answer questions faster.
DSEC agents are highly trained on different skills (written, oral, etc.) and often specialize in different channels. Sometimes, agents overlap on channels, handling chats, responding to emails and monitoring/responding to social media posts. Agents who are multiskilled and respond to customer inquiries on a variety of channels often report higher satisfaction with their jobs because it lends more diversity in their customer interactions
There are numerous examples where the DSECs have been highlighted as central to the citizen’s experience. For example, in Canada’s Citizen First Version 7 project, it was found that one of the primary ways to increase usage of government services online was to make specific changes to government websites including instantaneous payment confirmation and online support, including online chat, telephone support, and improved responsiveness to email messaging. All of this support is provided by a contact center.
Emerging customer-engagement technologies like virtual assistants can tailor information based on the customer’s input of information or keywords. Based on insights contained in the data, DSEC teams can proactively anticipate a customer’s intentions and can generate a personalized opener, for example: "I see your recent transaction was not successful, would you like me to connect you with an adviser to discuss this?" Smart apps can reach out while the customer is active online or on their app, using proactive chat or offering video interaction.
Providing a more personalized experience increases customer satisfaction because the question gets answered and it reduces the number of agents within a DSEC. Human-integrated interactive voice response allow agents to monitor IVR results and direct the IVR to the appropriate answers to respond to more specialized questions. Artificial intelligence allows them to proactively anticipate a citizen’s intentions and provide a personalized generic recorded IVR. The call-back feature allows an agency to return a call if it has reached capacity.
Analytics and dashboards also give agencies the ability to make data-driven decisions as they manage a program to determine future direction. This data, combined with the data from other channels, allows agencies to assess the overall citizen experience.
As a valuable component in the service delivery ecosystem, DESCs provide a value-added service to the public, as agents are able to connect with customers on a personal level, tailor information to meet their needs and tap into emotion, which is one of the most important components of a great customer experience.