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Nearly everyone has come into contact with their government, whether to renew a driver’s license or apply for a police check. Unfortunately, these interactions have become synonymous with poor, and even terrible, customer experience (CX).
These government-to-citizen (G2C) relations have been strained even further by the pandemic, yet it’s not all doom and gloom. 2022 promises new opportunities for governments to engage the public and reclaim much of the trust that has been lost. And while trust and technology don’t always go hand-in-hand, the latter will be essential to achieve the former in 2022 and beyond.
Read on to find out how governments can improve G2C engagement in 2022 with a focus on the technology that makes it possible.
As governments around the world have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, public trust has wavered, and in some cases, even been lost. According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, in 18 of 27 countries surveyed, the majority say that they trust businesses more than their own government.
Compared to business, government institutions were rated by Edelman Trust Barometer respondents as both “less competent” and “unethical”. According to the survey, the highest level of trust in information is given to employers, indicating that as organizations become more accessible, they become more trusted by respondents.
With consumer trust in governments incredibly low, 2022 brings new opportunities for governments to focus on regaining trust. Deloitte identifies four key signals that governments can use to rebuild trust among the public:
Given these four signals from government agencies, the actions taken by a government to regain trust can vary greatly. These could be as simple as solving problems quickly and without errors, or as complex as adjusting policies to make the sharing of information more transparent. Whatever the response, the public needs to feel a sense of value from the services that governments provide.
As we continue to explore the ways to improve G2C engagement in 2022, we’ll see that having the right tools for the job can go a long way toward fostering positive public perception.
With the need for governments to regain trust, there is one tech tool that stands out for its ability to meet all of the four signals we mentioned above. Omnichannel customer engagement platforms allow government agencies to provide humanity and transparency in communications while remaining fully capable and reliable. Before we move on though, let’s start by looking at what an omnichannel platform is and how it works.
Omnichannel engagement platforms connect every key digital support channel together into a single, unified system. This doesn’t only give citizens the option to connect with government agencies on their channel of choice (whether email, live chat, social media, or even SMS), improving their experience and increasing engagement. Omnichannel platforms also help support staff to more efficiently manage public engagement.
Rather than employ separate teams to respond on social media and email, for example, omnichannel brings these messages into a single platform where they can be responded to from one console.
Omnichannel engagement platforms also support the humanity and transparency that governments need. With every digital channel connected, support staff gain access to all previous communication, as well as the individual’s information. With this data at hand, agents can provide truly personalized support and show they care. Consumers are receiving this level of personalization from industries and organizations in the private sector, and they now expect the same from their government.
In a look at building government-to-citizen trust through mobile messaging, Forbes states:
“By providing a direct channel of communication between government and citizens and enabling verified transactions, SMS and other mobile messaging technologies have become critical channels for bridging gaps in information and providing public services.”
SMS is the most popular digital channel, so it only makes sense that governments should support SMS communications with citizens to improve communication and increase accessibility. With omnichannel platforms supporting communication through SMS, all the benefits of unified communications are brought to mobile technology. For governments, this means that the same communications team crafting careful email responses to citizens can now connect with the public using their preferred method.
Many marginalized groups today lack easy access to the channels that governments have traditionally used for communications: letter mail, phone calls, and email. Moving to support mobile technology allows for additional outreach possibilities and shows empathy to citizens that may not have a fixed address or who may have barriers to placing a call.
The future of government communications is in reducing barriers for citizen outreach, and governments need only look to the private sector to see how successful an omnichannel engagement strategy can be.
Because we’ve looked at the need for governments to improve humanity in their responses, it may seem counterintuitive to introduce chatbots to the conversation. The reality, however, is that chatbots, and specifically AI chatbots, are quickly becoming an invaluable tool for sorting and responding to incoming communications – without damaging the overall experience.
In their look at how government organizations in the US are introducing chatbots, Government Technology saw significant savings in resources among state governments, including Minnesota and Iowa:
“Iowa’s chatbot dates back to late 2018, and capabilities continue to be added as new needs arise. Seventeen agencies now use it, and so does the public. In May 2020, the state’s chatbot tools, combined with its live chat function, saved an estimated 1,700 hours of staff time that would have been spent addressing those same inquiries using traditional tools.”
Clearly, chatbots aren’t replacing human communications – they’re enabling them. There was already momentum toward the adoption of chatbot technologies leading up to 2020, and the pandemic has further increased reliance on this technology.
Not all chatbots are built the same, and AI chatbots can be used to provide a better experience for citizens with a more natural interface. Using Natural Language Processing, AI chatbots move beyond simple keywords to understand the context behind inquiries. These chatbots can even be integrated with third-party applications to perform routine tasks such as completing forms and making payments.
Maybe the biggest factor separating AI chatbots from their less advanced alternatives is their ability to learn from past conversations. As AI chatbots respond to inquiries and receive ratings on their response, they learn how to make the right response for the situation with increasing confidence.
A chatbot won’t replace your dedicated public engagement staff and it isn’t meant to. While chatbots handle the more simple, common questions, support staff can deal with more complex or sensitive matters. Choosing the right chatbot means making staff more available to the public for the issues that really matter.
For more information on how to start incorporating a digital omnichannel engagement strategy into your government agency, see below.
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