By adopting digital customer service tech, particularly live chat and chatbots, state and local governments can make huge strides toward meeting the public’s expectations for customer support.
The divide between customer experience (CX) in the public and private sectors is gaping. The highest-performing private sector in the U.S. boasts an 8.3 out of 10 customer satisfaction (CSAT) score. For the U.S. government, this score sits at 4.5. And this gap isn’t consigned just to this country. In the U.S., U.K., Canada, France and Germany, government is the worst-performing sector. These stats alone mark the need for an overhaul of government service delivery, from technology adoption to mission statement. That’s the bad news. The good news is that state and local governments can achieve this transformation with minimal disruption and cost by adopting the right digital customer service software.
Both B2B and B2C industries around the world are recognizing just how crucial it is to meet their customers’ service expectations and are reaping the rewards of their investment. However, while the private sector continues to shower its customers with amazing customer service and CX, state and local governments seem unable to keep up. In a survey by CFI Group, a global leader in citizen customer satisfaction measurements, only 68% of citizens said they were happy with the service they recently received from government contact centers. When asked if the transaction took a “reasonable time to resolve”, just 62% agreed.
The primary reason for these disappointing results is a reliance on traditional, and now outdated, support channels – particularly telephone. While phone support will always have its uses, there is a significant shift away from this channel across every age demographic. Just over 80% of people aged 10 to 41 admit that they often experience anxiety when talking to someone on the phone.
So how can local and state governments begin to narrow the CX gap and deliver the support that today’s public expects?
Embrace digital support
While it may seem obvious to brands in the tech space, digital customer service is an absolute must for state and local government. Constituents want to be able to get support where they are, and for almost every age group, this now means online. CFI found that 88% of U.S. citizens expect to interact with federal, state and local authorities digitally. This demand for digital support has been accelerated by the pandemic. A Salesforce survey found that across most generations, 74% of consumers say that they “expect to spend more time online after the pandemic than I did before,” while 80% agree that “Covid-19 has elevated my expectations of companies’ digital capabilities.” It’s crucial for government services to offer digital customer service that meets these digital expectations.
Live chat comes out on top
The digital channel that should be the front runner in any organization is live chat. Live chat is the most popular digital support channel – 73% of consumers agree that live chat is the most satisfactory way to communicate with a company (and 51% for email). Its popularity comes from its convenience and speed. Visitors to a website can engage with a support agent in real-time and get an instant response. With such ease of use and speed, live chat boasts an impressive CSAT of 4.2 out of 5 across all industries, according to the Comm100 Live Chat Benchmark Report 2022. In government, live chat CSAT sits at a respectable 4.1 out of 5.
Take Santa Fe County, New Mexico, for example. Because its Assessor’s Office deals with large amounts of complex information, staff found that residents were often struggling to find answers to their questions and relying on already busy phone lines for more support. Realizing the long wait times and negative CSAT that this was causing, Santa Fe launched a chat service. Now, their citizens receive fast and accurate support that has significantly improved the customer experience.
Chatbots are the only 24/7 solution
In 2020, 49% of citizens clicked on a government website outside of working hours, CFI found. For these visitors, most commonly needing support, this is nothing but frustrating. This has long been considered an unfortunate but unavoidable circumstance – government agencies simply don’t have the resources to offer 24/7 customer service. However, chatbots are now changing this.
Chatbots can be set up on websites to answer visitors’ questions at all hours of the day. Artificial intelligence-powered chatbots, using natural language processing, can grasp peoples' intents and the intricacies of language, enabling them to engage in more everyday conversations. In turn, this sets up chatbots to answer more common questions, all without any human interaction, empowering government to offer 24/7 support without the prohibitive cost of night-time agents. Adding chatbots to government service delivery can truly save on tax dollars!
A nod to the importance of security and privacy
Iron-clad security and privacy is being urged from the people – 99% of customers are keen for organizations to improve their trustworthiness, and 83% of responders to an Aquila survey said they “wish there were stronger consumer data privacy laws in my country.” With this top of mind, government agencies must ensure that every communication with community members conforms to the highest compliance standards and certifications. Convenience and speed of government service delivery simply cannot be prioritized over protecting citizens' data.
Live chat helps to alleviate these data security concerns when it complies with all major international security standards and privacy laws that government agencies depend on including SOC 2 Type II, ISO 27001, PIPEDA and GDPR.
Keeping data safe isn’t easy for all governments, though. For government agencies required to control the transmission and storage of data within a country, state or city, the lack of on-site deployment of live chat may be a deal breaker. On-premise deployment of live chat for government lets agencies host and maintain their own live chat, using their own native hardware, and stay in absolute charge of data storage.
The gap in CX between the public and private sector is vast, but it can be narrowed. By adopting digital customer service tech, particularly live chat and chatbots, state and local governments can make huge strides toward meeting the public’s expectations for customer support and start winning back their trust, one chat at a time.
Chris Bechtel is vice president of global marketing for Comm100 Network Corporation, an omnichannel customer engagement software platform for higher education, government, banking, financial services, technology and telecom among others.