What do companies like Uber, Warby Parker, and Amazon have in common?
Uber isn’t the only way to hail a ride, Warby Parker isn’t the only place to buy glasses, and Amazon is far from the only online retailer.
But these companies dominate in their respective spaces thanks to their relentless focus on creating a superior consumer experience. Their products and services may be nearly identical with those offered by competitors, but their convenience, delivery, and ease-of-use are unmatched.
Just as private sector companies have realized that an outstanding consumer experience is enough to give them an edge, public sector agencies are focusing on excellent citizen experiences as a goal. By adopting technologies that make it easy, convenient, and satisfying for citizens to engage, local leaders have the power to improve service delivery, build trust in government, and encourage deeper community engagement going forward.
Why Citizen Experience Matters
It’s true that public agencies don’t compete for citizens like private companies compete for customers. Regardless, local governments have substantial incentives to make excellent citizen experiences a top priority.
To accomplish any goal, governments require genuine buy-in from the residents they serve. It’s not enough for the Parks Department to create a mulch program for Christmas trees. Residents must be aware of the program, see the value in it, and find it easy and convenient enough to access that hauling their trees to the wood chipper feels worthwhile.
The same can be said for permits and licensing, public transportation, and even voting. When these systems operate smoothly, residents are more likely to engage with them in the future. When they don’t, disengagement is the likely outcome.
Unsurprisingly, whether or not residents view government agencies as competent when it comes to service delivery, impacts public perceptions of those agencies in a significant way. Research by McKinsey found that public agencies with higher rates of citizen satisfaction were perceived as more trustworthy than agencies with lower rates of citizen satisfaction. Overall, citizens who expressed greater satisfaction with their government were seven times more likely to say that they found the government trustworthy, the research found.
This makes sense on an intuitive level. If residents can’t renew a driver’s license or submit a public housing application without long wait times, convoluted processes, or confusing paperwork, how likely are they to feel they can depend on the government when they need it? Or that their tax dollars are being well spent? Are they more likely to eagerly engage with these systems going forward, or to avoid them?
Improving Citizen Experience
Fortunately, creating an outstanding citizen experience for your residents is an exceedingly attainable goal. By borrowing from the similar types of digital tools that private companies have deployed to improve consumer experiences, public sector agencies can make community engagement simple, convenient, and even enjoyable.
Adopting Easy-to-Use Citizen Engagement Software
The foundation of an excellent citizen experience is an easy-to-use community engagement software platform. This is the system that will power the website, mobile apps, and web forms your residents need, as well as the workflows, case management, field automation, and other tools that streamline internal government functions. The way it’s designed and integrated can make or break citizen experience.
The platform you choose should offer intuitive, streamlined service that looks just as good on a smartphone screen as it does on a laptop. It should be easy to navigate, integrated across all channels, and easy to adjust, as your residents’ needs will evolve over time.
The right technology will not make community engagement feel cold or impersonal. Instead, it will help humanize local government by anticipating citizens’ needs and remaining attuned to them.
Offering Self-Service Solutions Across Communication Channels
The majority of consumers would prefer taking care of issues themselves through a web portal or a mobile app over calling customer service and getting help from a live representative. The majority of your residents and businesses share this preference.
By combining multiple channels for self-service — like email, hotlines, web portals, chat bots, and mobile apps — you can help residents help themselves. Rather than waiting for business hours to make a call or visit a government office, people can take care of their business online at a place and time of their choosing.
This not only keeps tech-savvy folks happy, it frees up city workers to assist residents who are less comfortable using technology, or who lack access to it. In this way, adopting effective community engagement tools can be a powerful strategy for bridging the digital divide, while creating a better citizen experience for every resident.
Learn more in our free guide to Delivering Omnichannel Citizen Self Service.
Managing Citizen Journeys, End to End
One of the greatest leaps forward in improved consumer experiences has been a focus on managing a customer's experience from end to end, from the time they begin browsing a company’s offerings, to long after they receive their purchase.
This is in contrast to an earlier focus on consumer “touchpoints,” or the particular points of contact a customer has with a business. By instead considering the customer’s entire journey, companies can improve perceptions of their brand overall, rather than merely improving perceptions of a particular transaction, representative, or product.
Research shows that managing citizens’ entire journey leads to greater overall satisfaction. Government agencies can put this insight to work by implementing an effective service request management system that includes Citizen Relationship Management (CRM). This type of software solution can manage the entire life cycle of a service request, for instance, from initial reporting, to resolution, to follow-up with the resident. Keep in mind that a commerce-focused CRM may not be ideal for local governments, consider a more robust and tailored public-sector-focused platform instead.
Leveraging Data for a Better Citizen Experience
Your city government is a treasure trove of data, from the locations of parking violations, to neighborhoods that are most likely to be affected by a power outage, to buildings that have the highest rates of rodent infestation.
The trick is understanding how to leverage this data to improve the lives of citizens. Successful companies are masters at this, investing in AI and market research to understand what consumers value so they can move nimbly to meet shifting demands. Advanced reporting and analytics tools empower local governments to do the same, spotting emerging trends, directing resources where they’re needed, and solving small problems before they get out of hand.
Choose a citizen engagement platform that makes visualizing and drawing insights from your data easy, and your citizens can reap the benefits of smart, data-driven governance.
Creating an Outstanding Citizen Experience for Every Resident
Delivering high-quality services to residents is an important goal for local government.
Those that focus on creating citizen experiences that rival leading commercial brands, and leverage in the digital tools necessary to do so, will enjoy far greater engagement and trust. In short, efforts to improve the citizen experience are wise investments for any government agency.