How technology can truly enhance the citizen experience

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

How technology can truly enhance the citizen experience

With technology ubiquitous in our everyday lives, there is an expectation that using it as part of citizen experience (CX) efforts will help quickly close the gap between citizens' expectation and the reality of the service they often get from government. 

Undoubtedly, technology must be considered as part of a CX solution, and when used properly, it can indeed enhance CX.  Unfortunately, most agencies are unclear about effective technology use, forgetting that it is embedded in a “socio-technical system.” People, processes and technology are interdependent, and the success of CX is relies on the relationship among all of these elements.

Technologies are highly visible and produce easily identifiable measures, making organizations comfortable with the quantitative and tangible results they offer. Trust, relationships, emotions and actions, however, defy definition and are not easily quantified, making it harder to see the value in integrating these social aspects along with the technology. But it is this integration that is critical to ensuring technology meets its promise.

So how do organizations balance the promise of technology with the reality of implementing it into a social context?

First, we must consider the roles that technology can play. Not only is technology important for creating touchpoints, it is also important for evaluating them and providing efficient ways of operating. Some of the ways that agencies are using technology in their contact centers are: 

Multi-channel touchpoints.  Besides face-to-face and over the phone, agencies can serve citizens through email, chat, self-service portals, mobile applications and even social media. By integrating these into a seamless experience, citizens can access the help they need when, where and in the form they want.

Analytics.  Sophisticated technologies now exist to analyze interactions to determine trends in requirements demanded by citizens, performance of service personnel and process efficiency and effectiveness.  This data can inform continuous process improvement programs that evolve the agency’s response to citizen needs over time.

Intelligent and strategic routing. Interactive voice recognition systems, designed properly, can expedite routing to the most appropriate resource and in some cases can guide citizens to serve themselves.

Information/knowledge management:  Repositories of real-time information can give agency representatives answers they need to serve citizens more efficiently and effectively.  Sharing solutions among representatives can build their competency and the institutional knowledge of the agency over time.  In addition, good information and knowledge bases can serve as foundations for powerful self-service systems.

However, these roles can only be fulfilled if there is a solid design behind the implementation. A poor design can negate the promise of technology, creating frustration, anxiety and anger. What can be done to increase the probability of success with technology?   

Recognize the larger system.  Most technologies fail because the larger system in which they reside is not considered.  Implementation of any technology involves social change that involves people.  A technological solution should be an organizational, social, political and economic solution and needs to be designed by examining the interactions of all of these facets.

Understand and empathize with citizens. Don’t start with the technology -- start with the citizens. Who are they? Solutions should serve the whole population and must  be designed to meet citizens’ specific needs and wants, not what the agency thinks they should be. Focus on technologies that will have the most impact. Relying on technologies that constituents do not use or want to use will waste effort and money. Create technology solutions according to the citizens’ lifestyles and access. Create experiences using technology that appeals to their ways of communicating and interacting.

Design the technology to be a good citizen experience. The advantage of technology is that it is easily accessible; the challenge, however, is that it can feel very impersonal and unresponsive if the context is not appropriate. Technology solutions must be designed with the citizen fully in mind and should be integrated with other channels to ensure a good and seamless CX. The technology should reflect the agency’s care for the citizen in the same way a phone call or in-person exchange would.

Engage citizens in the design. The best way to understand citizens’ needs is to engage them.  User-designed approaches promote dialogue and collaboration with citizens to understand what their needs are, how they use technologies and how best to design a particular application. By continuously engaging a wide variety of citizens in the development process, agencies can ensure that their applications provide a well-designed and tailored CX.

Design for a multichannel experience.  Citizens have a variety of communication needs depending on their comfort with technology and the nature of their inquiries. Providing a single communication channel is limiting and can alienate citizens.  Allow for multiple means of connecting.  Also, provide self-service options that are not only convenient for citizens but can free up representatives for handling more difficult issues.

There is no question that technology will play a role in improving the citizen experience. What must be considered is what kind of role it will play.  We must not forget that at the center of the experience is the relationship among people. Technology is merely a medium through which we make this happen. The key is designing the technology experience to mirror and enable the human experience through understanding the citizens and what they need.

About the Author

Josh Plaskoff is director of learning and technology service development at HighPoint Global.

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