By Chuck Brooks, Vice President and Client Executive, Department of Homeland Security
When it comes to customer service, government agencies today face a tall task – meeting constituent expectations for timely, effective service while operating within the constraints of shrinking budgets. Citizen satisfaction with government services has historically been low, as noted in the Federal Times. Meanwhile, global private corporations such as Amazon and Google are setting the bar for streamlined, personalized, and effective customer care. For example, Google Helpouts allow customers to connect with experts for one-on-one teaching sessions, and Amazon’s “Mayday” connects users with a tech support agent in fewer than 20 seconds and creates an interactive experience that resembles in-person assistance. It’s no wonder that federal agencies are feeling the heat to step up their game.
Consumers require instantaneous service and feedback and government agencies have made strides to enhance their approachability through social channels. We tackled this topic in one of our recent blog posts, highlighting the point that almost all federal agencies have an active presence on at least one social channel, allowing for real-time interaction beyond call centers. While this is a significant and positive development, agencies should view social media as a jumping off point for alternative tactics to supplement a comprehensive customer care strategy.
Additionally, federal agencies should model their service strategy off best practices for adhering to a customer-centric approach. Although the private sector is leading the charge, government websites such as BusinessUSA.gov, Recreation.gov and USA.gov have succeeded by streamlining online portals and making the experience easy for customers. The goal is to allow citizens exploring the websites to quickly find the information they need and be able to easily digest it, without wasting time getting lost or sifting through dense material. Revamping your website with the customer in mind improves your service strategy at a point before direct interaction even needs to come into play.
Nevertheless, even the most streamlined and straightforward websites can cause difficulties for visitors. There are several ways for agencies to assist – whether it’s setting up online chats with experts to walk visitors through the process, or taking the next step and implementing co-browsing whereby specialists can directly show visitors how to obtain the information they need.
Constituent satisfaction is undoubtedly important to agencies, but they still need to operate within budgets that aren’t increasing. An article in the Federal Times describes an approach for agencies to use data-driven analytics to evaluate agency performance and maximize resources. This approach emphasizes personnel allocation and internal training to deliver exemplary service from trained experts.
Customer feedback is essential, and agencies should be proactive in reaching out to ensure that the new tools are working as they should and that the customer service left nothing to be desired.
The tactics listed here are by no means all-encompassing, and agencies should do their due diligence evaluating their customer service strategy and looking elsewhere for inspiration. There are always ways to improve the experience for your constituents!