In an effort to improve customer support, federal agencies have made it a top priority to enhance the quality of service provided by contact centers.
At the core of this effort to improve frontline support is the pressure government agencies are under from the public for better support and easier ways to interact with government service providers. The IT modernization and customer experience advancements made by businesses during the pandemic have altered people’s expectations and created a need for government to reimagine the direct and digital experiences they offer the public.
With the pressure on federal agencies to reimagine the digital experience – and do it quickly – what can federal agencies do?
We reached out to Karen Tuttle, a digital experience expert with Verizon to talk about the challenges facing federal agencies and see what guidance she had to offer.
“Federal agencies are under a tremendous amount of pressure right now to support people during this on-going national crisis,” explained Tuttle, Associate Director for the Constituent Experience and Government Operations Specialist team at Verizon. “The good news is that technology that supports delivering an exemplary digital experience has never been better. Customer experience (CX) technology is in its prime enabling agencies to deliver what people have come to expect in a way that neither breaks the budget, nor puts another burden on frontline federal workers.”
Based on her experiences helping public sector organizations address their CX challenges, Tuttle offered four pieces of guidance to build and deliver a successful experience for today’s digital natives.
- Give the Public Options
People have very different preferences on how to find answers to their questions and challenges. For some, making a phone call to speak directly with another person is their preferred method of interaction. Others prefer texting, chatbots, or some other form of digital self-service or remote interaction.
“Federal agencies have to be able to work across generations and always deliver an amazing and successful customer experience,” explained Tuttle. “Take, for example, the Social Security Administration. They have constituents who are over 100 years old, but also have to be able to serve them as well as the newest members of Gen Z who are entering the workforce today. These two groups couldn’t be more different in how they interact with technology, which is why it’s so important to give people options in how they communicate.”
- Breakdown Barriers and Focus on Integration
There’s nothing more frustrating for a person than to start an inquiry using one channel – such as a chatbot – only to be transferred elsewhere in the contact center and feel like you’re starting the entire process over again. Or to suffer the fate of being disconnected when transferred between departments with no way to get back to the last person you spoke with.
For Tuttle, being able to offer a fully integrated solution, one that seamlessly transfers both people and their information between channels, is the goal to which all organizations should aspire.
“You’ll often hear the term omnichannel in discussions of customer experience,” she explained. “This simply means being able to bring all of the different ways people can communicate with an agency into an integrated stream so that vital information isn’t lost, and people aren’t frustrated during their interaction with an agency.”
- Analyze Data to Improve Service Delivery and the Digital Experience
There’s no doubt about it, we live in a data-driven world these days and agencies should take advantage of insights they can glean from every interaction. From trouble shooting to improve hand-off between channels to learning what new topics could be triaged by chatbots, the possibilities are endless when it comes to what data can improve in the areas of customer experience and interaction.
“We’re becoming more comfortable with data collection and how data can help improve digital experiences for the public,” noted Tuttle. “Often the thought of collecting and analyzing all this data can seem overwhelming because each interaction might yield a valuable data point. But when you’re using state-of-the-art contact center and CX technology, the data is automatically collected, analyzed, and delivered in actionable reports. If your current provider can only deliver raw data and requires your organization to build reporting capabilities in-house, or hire yet another third party, it’s time to take a look at other vendors.”
- Augment Your Capability with a Trusted Partner
While technology is there to help, people will always be at the center of exemplary digital experience. With most federal agencies already short-staffed, even before the pandemic’s great resignation, having enough customer service representatives has been a long-standing challenge. The answer to this challenge is to not necessarily hire more full-time, or even part-time employees but to identify a trusted partner to deliver the right solution the first time, manage complexity, and empower the agency team to focus on mission-critical activities.
“With the fast pace of technological change today it’s easy for agencies to get overwhelmed,” shared Tuttle. “Agency IT teams shouldn’t be tech generalists; they should be specialists in their agency’s IT environment. By investing in a relationship with a trusted partner, the in-house team can access best-in-class technology, architecting, and support delivered by experts so they can focus on the mission. In the end, this results in improved operational efficiency, lowered costs, and greater agility, not to mention improved satisfaction from constituents who have a high-quality consistent experience each time they interact with the agency.”
Take Action to Meet the Growing Support Expectations
As the public’s service and support expectations continue to rise, the pressure on agencies to improve their digital and contact center experiences also will continue to grow. Being able to communicate clearly and effectively with all people, across all channels, is now an essential capability for federal agencies that provide public services.
By focusing on creating an omnichannel experience that’s driven by data and operates on today’s state-of-the-art technology platforms, federal agencies will be able to deliver a seamless experience that meets – if not exceeds – what people experience in other sectors of their daily lives.