By now you know that the Digital Citizen is ready and waiting, and that whilst you might believe they bring opportunities for government, you also know they will bring challenges. So how on earth do you go about defining a Digital Citizen strategy that exploits the opportunities and addresses the challenges? Let me outline some suggestions:
There are many, many digital channels available today, and there will be more. Wouldn’t it be great if we could service them with ‘one-approach’?
KANA has advocated this approach for many years, with the same underlying processes being shared across multiple channels albeit with different user experiences. For example, a complaint process might look different to an agent in a call center and a citizen on the web, but the underlying process can be the same, if designed correctly. One barrier to progress in this area has been the lack of appropriate standards.
This started to change with the introduction of the Open311 standard, which enables one approach to be taken across multiple channels for ‘reports about public spaces’. KANA’s Lagan Open311 product is an implementation of the Open311 standard and supports connectivity between different Open311 compliant applications with the existing underlying processes within the same government organization’s CRM implementation. Examples of potential Open311 compliant applications include the government organization’s web and Facebook sites, 3rd party web apps, 3rd party smart phone apps, Twitter and even city assets such as traffic lights, which could communicate problems to the government organization! So whilst the user experience might be different, the underlying processes can be the same.
Another example of an important relevant standard is HTML5. This can be used to support different user experiences more effectively than previous HTML standards. Further, it can be incorporated into native mobile smart phone apps thereby supporting multi-platform smart phone applications. KANA Lagan Mobile uses this technique.
But Open311 and HTML5 aren’t enough, not by a long shot. We need more standards to enable the ‘multi-channel/one-approach’ idea to be taken much further, something KANA is committed to progressing.
Designed for the Digital Citizen
In the race to give services to the Digital Citizen, some government organization’s have considered putting their existing contact center user experiences on-line. This simply does not work for a variety of reasons, but fundamentally because the existing contact center user experiences have been designed and optimized for internal use, taking advantage of a user’s domain knowledge and training, the additional information they have privileged access to and their operating environment, all of which is different when considering Digital Citizen access.
Hence, Digital Citizen user experiences must be designed and optimized for them, reflecting their (likely) lack of domain knowledge (e.g. government structures) and training, access rights and different operating environments. This is backed up by many studies which show that the most popular on-line processes are those that are simple and easy to get access to.
Whilst this ‘Designed for the Digital Citizen’ point might seem to contradict the ‘Multi-Channel/One-Approach’ point, it does not, because the former refers to the user experience and the latter the underlying process.
It’s not all about transactions!
There are many types of services that can be offered to the Digital Citizen, but the one type that seems to be thought of first is transactional services like ‘Tell us about it’, ‘Apply for it’ or ‘Pay for it’. This is surprising as transactional services make up a small percentage of the total number of transactions typically directed at government organizations, information requests (‘Find out about it’) making up the largest percentage (as much as 80%). This is illustrated by a recent conversation I had with an IT Director about his Digital Citizen strategy and, whilst he had clearly done a great job of offering transactional services to Digital Citizens on the web, he said that he thought he’d hit a plateau. I shared with him the City of Amsterdam case study (where they streamlined access to all non-transactional information services across the web and the phone channel with amazing results) and you could (almost) see a light bulb appear above his head…
The exciting news is that government organizations can provide information to the Digital Citizen in ways not previously possible, by:
- alerting citizens to ‘hotspot’ areas based on their location
- allowing citizens to ask questions via SMS using their regular mobile phone
- providing optimized versions of the same information to different devices (e.g. the web presentation of the information could be different to the chat presentation of the same information), something that KANA Lagan Knowledge Management supports.
Market your services
Once you’ve made your services available to the digital citizen, you should be done, right? Wrong. You need to tell them about it! This might seem obvious, but I promise you, it’s not! I’ve had several government organizations confide to me that they don’t understand why their citizens aren’t using their shiny new on-line services. My first question is “have you told them?” at which point I usually get a blank face. On the positive side, I can point to a number of great examples of how to do this right, including Minneapolis’s advertisement of their 311 service on an entire tram line back in 2006 and more recently North Ayrshire’s media and social marketing of their ‘Report It’ app.
In order to maximise take up of on-line processes, you must consider providing a support and escalation infrastructure so that, if and when Digital Citizens need help, you can provide it.
You’ll already be familiar with the kind of things I’m talking about as you’ve probably already used some of these on commercial websites, capabilities like email, chat and co-browse. What used to be viewed as isolated channels are now considered vital components in maximizing the take up of on-line services, illustrated by a recent conversation I had with a large commercial KANA customer who told me that they were bringing their previously outsourced chat capability back in-house.
As always, do let me know your thoughts on this subject!