Delivering empathetic constituent services in challenging times
- By Doug Averill
- Oct 22, 2020
Government agencies provide critical services that people regularly depend on -- services that are tested during times of disruption. The most recent disruptor, COVID-19, resulted in a surge of requests for unemployment benefits, case worker responses, social services and more -- many of which created long wait times and disjointed experiences. Combined with employees unexpectedly needing to work from home, many agencies’ technology limitations surfaced while IT staff struggled to respond to requests quickly and empathetically. This left many agencies re-evaluating their long-term strategies to ensure they can adapt quickly in the face of future change to better serve constituents -- no matter the disruption.
Government agencies want to do better, but their operations are often constrained due to their legacy systems that create siloed data and disjointed processes, and often, the backup plan is a manual workaround that slows responses even further. Instead, agencies need technologies that can be implemented quickly and provide flexibility in how agents can deliver personalized, empathetic services to constituents when and where they most need help.
Some agencies have already implemented digital transformation projects to address the technology limitations they have been struggling with for years. However, in many cases, the solutions have not delivered as promised. They’re hard to integrate into existing systems, don’t provide visibility into constituent data and can’t scale or adapt to keep pace with new digital channels.
The only constant in the world is change, and if agencies implement the right technology, they can set themselves up for future success in the face of disruption -- be it a pandemic or new digital channels. To help tackle these challenges, government agencies should focus on improving or implementing four key technologies that will help them better service constituents with more efficient points of engagement:
- Channel-less technology that serves people and employees alike. The pandemic raised awareness of constituents’ need to get help through their preferred channel -- be it via a mobile app, a browser, phone or in person if absolutely necessary. Government employees also need the capabilities to quickly, securely and completely respond to these requests, no matter where they are working. This means having the infrastructure and technology solutions to take constituent requests from any channel while also enabling employees to securely and productively work from an office or at home. Additionally, tools like intelligent automation can resolve some constituent requests without human intervention, freeing up agents to focus on critical cases and requests. This helps agencies more successfully assist constituents quickly and efficiently, while embracing digital channels that many people prefer to use to contact agencies for help.
- Intelligent guidance for proactive service. While many government service requests are inbound, agencies may want to consider options to be more proactive, which can potentially solve issues before constituents are affected. Analytics-based solutions can help anticipate why people might reach out, what type of help they’ll need and the best actions to take to solve the issue. For instance, as unemployment benefits are halted and then reinstated, agencies can proactively contact unemployed constituents (who had previously filed) with information on new benefits, which helps save time and effort later on. Recognizing constituents might need particular services and proactively offering them valuable solutions helps provide support during challenging times.
- Self-service and mobile channels for better access. Agents only have so much capacity, which is why agencies must rely on technology to bridge the gap. Self-service portals and digital apps are a way for constituents to connect beyond office hours, 24/7. For example, when call center volumes spike regarding unemployment benefits, agencies can develop mobile-friendly technology that constituents can use to quickly apply, providing a streamlined experience that frees up time for employees to work on other issues. Or, governments can provide an online process for those who qualify to apply for emergency aid from their homes instead of in person, leading to faster claims processing and financial relief getting to those in need quickly.
- Analytics to identify gaps. Government agencies typically have access to years of historic data regarding constituents, but most don’t tap into this rich resource. However, by implementing intelligent analytics, agencies can glean insights that help them better serve the people they represent. For example, court systems can use intelligent technology to determine a person’s flight risk based on current and historic data. This allows judges to make informed bail decisions more quickly, allowing low-risk offenders to stay with their families and go to work.
In government agencies, empathy is about deploying right tools to help employees quickly find higher-value, appropriate and, in some cases, proactive solutions for constituents. When done right, it’s the ultimate win-win: agencies use technology to create scalable solutions that improve internal efficiencies while better serving constituents.
Doug Averill is VP, global industry market leader, government, with Pegasystems.