Here are the top digital customer service trends used by leading commercial brands that hold promise for government leaders in 2019.
Prompted by high levels of online customer service by companies from eBay to E*TRADE, the federal government has set on a journey to incorporate private sector business practices. As noted in the 2018 President’s Management Agenda, success hinges on raising government customer experience expectations to the average of the private sector.
It makes sense that companies would elevate the customer experience. Superpower brands can anticipate their customer’s changing needs and invest in disruptive technologies to deliver beyond expectations. But government answers to the public for its budget. New digital innovations are emerging every year and for agency leaders tasked with prioritizing them, it can be a daunting task.
Stark differences exist between public and private sector business practices. But looking to the private sector as a testbed for emerging technologies may spring new ideas. For government leaders looking to increase customer experience, the question becomes: What technology is scalable, will yield the highest return on investment, and fits into an agency’s overarching strategy?
The below digital services represent low-risk, high-yield opportunities for the government to explore this year:
- Streamlined User Experience: A survey conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton and Ipsos in 2018 identified the No. 1 citizen request of government: Make it easier to find information online. At times citizens end up browsing up to four different websites to find the information they are looking for, which creates a frustrating user experience. Anticipate what your citizens are coming to your website for and make it readily available. A great example from the private sector is Amazon’s 1-Click Ordering functionality. As for government, check out how the IRS redesigned their website with this in mind.
- Chatbots: Citizens’ No. 2 request of government is to make support more readily available, and the top method of support preferred is online chat (48 percent). Whether live chat or text-to-chat, there are varied options available. For example, consider sending an automated message via chat when a citizen lands on a dead end or receives a page error.
- Mobility and Responsive Web Design: The Connected Government Act requires all government websites to become mobile friendly. And since its passage, many agencies have adapted their web presence for mobile. But is your mobile experience actually engaging for citizens? Ensuring your website is multifunctional is a must. In 2018, 52.2 percent of all website traffic was generated through a mobile phone. As more citizens prefer to use this platform, designing mobile-first simple experiences will keep citizens engaged. For example, Yahoo! Finance provides the latest data on key indices and economic indicators at the top of their site in a horizontal ribbon which can be clicked on desktop or tablet or swiped on a smartphone for instant access.
- Content Personalization: Search and recommendation algorithms are being used to surface content users are most likely to engage with. Netflix generates personalized movie suggestions for viewers and Spotify publishes “Discover Weekly” music playlists for listeners. Machine learning and automation has expanded the opportunity for unique customer experiences. How does this apply to government? Your website is a good place to start. Tagging and surfacing “look-alike” content based on what your citizens are browsing will increase website stickiness and overall engagement. See how benefits.gov reorganized their benefit detail pages to highlight similar benefits.
- Intelligent Assistants and Voice Activation: Although launching a fully functional intelligent assistant may not be in scope for your agency this year, now’s the time to start considering new technologies such as voice assistants to reach more citizens. The current pace of mobile innovation brought with it conversational AI platforms, notably Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant. And today, thanks to smartphones, these hands-free programs are in the hands of many citizens—including the underserved. Imagine if people could say, “Hey Siri!” or “Hey Google!” to find out the status of their tax refund or obtain information on their personal federal benefits. Government should begin thinking about these disruptive technologies and be ready to capitalize as they continue to evolve.
Like any technology investment, government leaders must fully weigh the pros and cons of adoption, implementation, and sustainment. And above all, listen to your customers and let their opinions influence your decisions. You can only come to an understanding on the technology you need after you’ve uncovered the challenges you are hoping to address. It can be done—and it’s worth the effort. Adopting the right digital tools and services will improve mission delivery, engagement time, and customer satisfaction scores in this year and beyond.
Shannon Fitzgerald leads Booz Allen’s Citizen Services business focused on modernizing and transforming government missions through digital technology, cyber, and analytics capabilities.