Steve Bell, VP EMEA Solutions Consulting, Verint Systems, explores how a new progressive mindset of customer engagement can empower public sector brands
Public sector organisations are often stereotyped as being out of touch, inefficient and far behind the innovation of private-sector counterparts. Yet as we saw in the pandemic, many government departments and bodies were able to move quickly and continue to offer vital services, despite the restrictions to their daily ways of working.
Of course, in many instances, the wholesale changes they had to make were not completely brand new but accelerated thanks to the pandemic. In fact, in some instances, such as remote and flexible ways of working, public sector organisations have been ahead of the private sector for some time.
However, as the world starts to open up, the public sector needs to embrace that operating in crisis mode is not going to last. Citizens expect organisations in all industries and sectors to adapt to the challenges of post-COVID life. What’s more, these citizens are being exposed to ever more intuitive experiences and services from the brands they buy from, and this is influencing their levels of expectations of what good looks like.
Accelerated citizen demands
For public sector organisations, that means needing to provide a high-quality level of service across all touchpoints.
They need to be able to offer self-service, social-media-based customer interactions, mobile and e-commerce (where payments are taken from citizens) and they need to be able to offer these at the same standard as private sectors leaders, all with a remote workforce. It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling fast food or fridges, extending parking permits, providing planning permission, whether you’ve been in business 12 months or are a provider of public services for over 50 years – all organisations are being judged against those businesses that deliver stand out customer experiences.
It’s an issue that is challenging government and public sector officials. In a study from Verint, 64% of respondents are concerned with using customer feedback to improve efficiency and quality & future experiences across the organization. Some of these challenges include providing employees with the right equipment when working from home, ensuring citizens are receiving consistent service and maintaining employee motivation while they work from home.
Ushering in a new era of citizen engagement
It all points to creating a new approach to citizen engagement. What worked in the early days of 2020 will not wash twelve months later. Public sector providers need to recognise that they have to deliver an always-on experience, irrespective of channel, while at the same time taking into account the fact that their workforce isn’t going to scale to meet the challenge – just 49% of government organisations intend to increase citizen experience related staffing in 2021.
What’s the solution? The answer combines culture and technology to create an approach known as boundless engagement.
It’s cultural because it demands a mindset change. One that sees the entire organisation as responsible for delivering an exemplary experience, not just those departments that deal directly with citizens. Where key performance indicators and objectives across all functions are dialled into how that department or team supports the delivery of better citizen experiences. It’s also about empowering workforces to act appropriately and deliver the best response to citizens, allowing the entire organisation to adapt and act faster.
Combining technology and culture
It needs to be cultural because culture defines how the next part is used. Technology is inherently neutral – it is only through its deployment and adoption that it becomes either a force for good or simply a quicker root to short-term margin improvement. If the right cultural mindset is in place, then the technology that underpins it all will deliver boundless customer engagement.
It will do this by enabling the right balance of automation and human touch, allowing teams to scale without leaving citizens feeling as if they are at the mercy of an impersonal algorithm. With artificial intelligence, everything from front-end chatbots to back-end knowledge management systems serving up the right information at the right time can be deployed to meet accelerated citizen expectations.
2021 – the year of boundless engagement
Whatever else happens, the citizen experience in 2021 is going to be one characterised by speed, by intuition, and by a vast array of touchpoints. For government and public sector departments to be able to deliver on this promise without dramatically undermining their own employees will take a new approach – one that connects the realities of work today with data and experiences to build enduring relationships through boundless engagement.
By combining a culture shift with the deployment of technology, organisations will be able to break down the barriers that disrupt better citizen experiences and meet demand. And they’ll be able to do it without having to massively scale up or put teams under intolerable pressure.
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