Keeping people digitally informed about services, and providing them with the means to access these services, creates value for those organisations who do it well. It also creates the much-needed pull to encourage customers to keep returning to digital and to reinforce the digital channel as the preferred choice for interactions.
By introducing digital tools to your website, such as a single portal where citizens can make service requests or find the answers they need to specific queries, local authorities can transform their working relationships with the people they serve.
There is significant benefit to this. Once digitally engaged with citizens, councils can communicate regularly and effectively through the portal to further reinforce usage and benefits of the channel. By keeping citizens informed about the expected service levels, the communications vacuum is removed.
Here are some examples of how digital tools can improve communication between public sector organisations and their customers, as well as providing a boost to staff productivity.
It’s worth considering why a digital solution might be favourable to those looking to engage services. For this we can look to the private sector and how organisations there, that have been successful using digital, have changed the dynamic between customer and service provider. For example:
Creating digital options that make customer self-service easy and convenient to do, making it preferable to voice calls
Helping customers to easily find the products and services they want
Allowing customers to track progress of their requested service
Delivering the goods or service in accordance with the time frames expected by the customer (with expectations set by the service provider)
For successful companies, digital has reduced the cost to fulfil and service, which means they can deliver on a massive scale. At the same time, customers have an improved and more personalised experience.
The parallels, and opportunity, for service delivery in the public sector should not be lost.
A single portal to access all council services, such as the IEG4 OneVu citizen engagement platform, can dramatically change the contact between the citizen and the council, reducing the need for in-bound call handling and authentication, and providing useful insights with every interaction.
Previously, the primary function of many customer-facing roles in the public sector was to capture customer information so it could be fed into processing systems.
Now, with a single login, the customer can provide this information digitally, from there, it can be used in every interaction. Further authenticated information can be provided to enable a personalised experience with any service.
From a citizen’s perspective, rather than the council’s, services can be grouped logically in associated areas e.g. benefits claims, council tax issues and care services. Alternatively, they can be found easily by the customer searching, using simple-to-understand terms.
Service requests can be pre-populated from the customer profile to improve data submission accuracy and reduce data exceptions which may require intervention. Requests can be answered in real-time, including retrieving personalised information from back-office systems.
Using a well-designed digital solution, which is built to be mobile responsive and with end-user experience in mind, a council can acknowledge the receipt of the request, explain the next steps in a process and communicate service level expectations as soon as the request is received. As a result, the customer is kept updated about the progress of their enquiry.
Provided communication is received back upon submission of the request, response times for most services don’t need to be onerous, they simply need to be set out and delivered. Take the DVLA as an example, which suggests four weeks to confirm change of car ownership but normally completes that confirmation, via the post, in a week.
The point is that the communication of the service level buys time and stops follow-up calls within the period. The request is frequently completed before the customer has begun to wonder how long it has been.
Communications to keep the customer updated can be the automatic by-product of executing a step within a service workflow. It requires no additional administration effort from the service provider yet has enormous impact on customer perceptions about quality of service and the use of the digital channel.
Effective digital design can reduce staff call-handling efforts in other areas, such as payment-handling. Some of our clients, for example, have reported a 45% reduction in such calls since the introduction of digital services and the integration with payment services.
Well thought through digital solutions, which are paired with timely and effective communications, can both reinforce customer usage of the digital channel and encourage more service requests to be made.
It is evident that digital automation dramatically increases the volume of requests that a council can handle, boosts council productivity, improves service quality and saves the customer time as well as making them feel more connected to the service.