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How Government Agencies Can Elevate Citizen Service

In business, customers simply vote with their feet and head off to the competition if a company doesn't meet their expectations. Government agencies have no such competition, yet it's even more...

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In business, customers simply vote with their feet and head off to the competition if a company doesn't meet their expectations. Government agencies have no such competition, yet it's even more crucial for them to provide top-notch service. When agencies provide poor service delivery, citizens lose their general trust in the government. In addition, a lack of attention to service can also obstruct a government from carrying out its public policies if frustrated citizens simply stop engaging with government entities. This erodes citizens' compliance with regulations and the tax system, which can decrease budgets for delivery.

Key Trends in Improving Citizen Service

While improvements in citizen service still have a long way to go, there are signs of positive momentum in the US and around the globe. 

US Legislators Championing Improved Citizen Service 

New legislation is underway which, at a federal level, acknowledges the importance of improved citizen experience. Known as the Trust in Public Services Act, the bill aims to build trust with citizens by enhancing communications, asking for feedback, and elevating accountability among federal staff. The idea is that improved service builds trust. If passed, it will create the framework for that improvement, but agencies will need to implement solutions to make service improvements a reality.

Meeting the Needs of Citizens Online

According to The World Bank, online citizen service centers have evolved significantly over the last decade.  Online service makes it easier for people to complete transactions and allows two-way communications between governments and citizens. 

  • Cutting-edge technology. Public agencies are increasingly using tech solutions to meet the needs of citizens.  A clear example of this trend is the increased opportunity for citizens to request birth certificates online. In 2014, citizens of only 44 countries had this option. By 2020, that number had more than tripled to hit 149.
  • The feedback loop. In recent times, the best public agencies have embraced two-way communication with the public, not just for service delivery but for feedback on that delivery. Some have even requested citizen input before setting up online services. This human-centered design approach staves off problems down the line.
  • A one-stop portal. No citizen wants to trawl through different websites in search of services. Having to do so may put them off from using the service at all.  That's why some agencies are now offering each citizen a private online portal to review account status and complete transactions. The most advanced example of this is the Republic of Korea's National Information Resources Service, which integrates and manages 1,230 digital government services linked to 45 central government institutions.
  • The life events approach. Another key trend is the concept of using life events— such as marriage, divorce, birth, and retirement — to help citizens navigate through websites. This approach improves user experience (UX) because a citizen can click on a heading that describes the situation from their perspective (such as "I am getting married") rather than try to navigate through confusing menus to find what they need. 

How Some Innovators Are Leading the Way

According to Deloitte, examples from across the globe show the benefit of elevated citizen service by government agencies. For example, the US Department of Veteran Affairs revamped its website to deliver more personalized experiences and cut out the need for multiple logins. These improvements led to a 50% rise in online healthcare applications in a single year.

In Chile, a government innovation lab turned human-centered design to address various problems, such as emergency housing, energy, and health care. Another example is an innovative program innovation called SmartStart that saved new parents in New Zealand thousands of in-person visits to government offices. By establishing a portal that offers digital services during pregnancy and the months following birth, this program allowed parents to access necessary services for their newborn children quickly and easily.

How Better Citizen Service Benefits Government Agencies 

According to an in-depth report by the United Nations in 2020, digital government services have improved significantly. More than 84% of countries now offer at least one online transactional service, with a global average of 14 services. 

These digital options benefit governments in several ways:

  • Increasing citizen engagement. The more user-friendly a government agency, the higher the number of citizens that will engage with it and provide feedback. This, according to the World Bank, improves transparency, makes agencies more effective and can spark innovation.  Trust in state and federal government can grow as a result.
  • Suporting budget goals. Efficiency and speed are key to a great experience. When an agency can complete services quickly, citizens are more likely to feel positive about the experience and share those perspectives with others. What's more, when agencies can complete transactions for as many citizens as possible over a unit of time — for example, monthly  —  it can help those agencies collect more revenues. By contrast, poor service delivery can cause frustrations for citizens and slow down operations, both of which can prevent agencies from attaining budget goals.
  • Achieving missions. The most basic building block for the success of any e-government service is that intended users understand it and engage with it.  Higher engagement rates can help an agency better fulfill its core mission. One example is the Federal Student Aid program in the Department of Education, which aims to help students with the greatest need access funds for continued education. According to McKinsey & Company, the department simplified its online services to make the program more accessible, eliminate the cumbersome paperwork burden, and reach more students. 

How Government Agencies Can Improve Citizen Service

With the right technology and humans in the loop, government agencies can deliver more positive and personalized experiences to citizens. 

  • Ease of use and access to information. Content and services should be easy to understand and navigate, and user support should be available round the clock and in several languages. This creates an inclusive experience for users.  
  • Multi-channel platform availability. The best e-government services support users on various platforms such as web portals, phone, chat, email, in-app, and social media channels. Agencies should always assume that their customer bases  — and their communication habits and tools — are diverse.
  • Security and safety of consumer data. Because government agencies become privy to a citizen's personal details, security is paramount. For example, nobody wants a third party to know their tax identification number. If the user does not feel a sense of security, they are less likely to use technology tools and may avoid engaging with the agency altogether.

Getting the job done

Government agencies and citizens of a country rely on one another. When that relationship breaks down, trust erodes, and the system falls apart. With appropriate technology and the right humans in the loop, both sides benefit. Citizens have their needs met as quickly as possible, and government agencies can fulfill their missions.

To elevate citizen service, you can partner with Helpware. We offer secure technology solutions, exceptional professional support, and analytics to help you forge connections with citizens and operate more efficiently.

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