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Transforming Citizen Experience

January 16, 2018

Companies everywhere have been schooled by the likes of Starbucks and Amazon, which have radically improved customer experience and dramatically benefited financially as a consequence. Many are reorganizing and redefining their operations, including the contact center.

Why should city, state and local governments care? Are changes in private industry really relevant to the public sector? Can efficiency actually be gained when services are as wide-ranging as local governments provide?

Harold Tuck, Paul Clanton and Frank Tersigni recently gathered to discuss these questions and more. Tuck is former CIO for San Diego County Technology Office. Clanton spent 20 years as a CIO for 2 counties and a medium-size city. Tersigni has more than 30 years of experience in telecommunications and contact center technologies and is Chief Customer Officer at Altivon.

The Relevance of Private Industry Initiatives

Customer experience has become a strategic differentiator that is core to long-term success. At the same time, modern easier-to-manage contact center technology has proven to allow organizations to focus more on service delivery than system administration. Consumers have learned the possibilities with personalization and self-service and are unhappy when their experiences are less than effortless. As Tuck pointed out, the public sector does not get a break on this.

Three key messages here are:

  • Contact center success comes from easy interactions every time. The Corporate Executive Board (CEB) calls this the ‘effortless experience’. Customers would rather have easy, effortless interactions than get a special prize or compensation once in a while when there are extenuating circumstances. And they vote with their pocketbooks.
  • The vast majority of customers today are connected. Almost everyone has a smartphone, tablet, laptop or other connected device that they would rather use to solve a problem themselves. Contact centers need to recognize that, provide self-service tools and prepare agents to handle the more complex interactions that customers cannot solve.
  • Citizens are customers. Every organization—large or small, private or public—has a constituency that wants more access, better service and easier interactions. Tuck, Clanton and Tersigni all agreed that the public sector can and should embrace the ‘experience mindset’.

Tersigni gave the example of Maricopa County, which implemented a county-wide contact center system. Because of the breadth of services spread across many department, the initial agent count could only be estimated. Since then the agent number has increased five-fold, with each department controlling their own setup to best serve their customers.

Quick Wins for Citizen Experience

There is no question that self-service is the preference of the buying public. A simple example is the movie-going experience. It is quite common now that a trip to the movies begins online, where tickets are bought, seats selected and popcorn ordered for delivery. Self-service reigns supreme. Start there. A brainstorm session with IT, agents and department staff should identify quick self-service wins.

Next, examine the opportunity for proactive calls, emails and texts. Messages about outages are extremely helpful and can reduce call volume. Holiday updates on waste collection can be convenient and appreciated reminders. Natural disaster alerts may be another easy choice. Be sure to temper your ideas to keep from gaining a SPAM reputation.

Another quick win discussed was adding different channels for communication. While many organizations support email in addition to calls, they have different SLAs. Adopting an omnichannel approach that recognizes that customers often shift between channels during their interactions is a great improvement in efficiency and citizen experience.

Agent Empowerment

Contact centers used to be in the basement both literally and figuratively, and agent turnover was extraordinarily high. With the increasing focus on customer experience, the contact center has become incredibly important. While self-service can handle the basic blocking and tackling for the organization, agents are the special team called in to solve more complex issues.

For agents to be effective, they must have greater access to information, including the self-service interactions that preceded the agent-assisted interaction. This is the goal of true omnichannel design.

The Digital Future is Now

No discussion of modern technology is complete without mention of artificial intelligence. The last portion of the conversation was devoted to bots, machine learning, artificial intelligence and their promise for improving contact center interactions.

Additional Resources

Learn more about How Modern Contact Centers are Transforming the Citizen Experience.