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CX in the public sector: 5 government trends to embrace now

Stephanie Thum

September 8, 2021  •  6 min read

“Government doesn’t need to worry about customer experience. Where else are customers going to go to get what they need?”

I hear this fairly often when I tell people about my work in government customer experience. I understand the perception.

But, my friends, I need to tell you something. We can’t oversimplify the situation!

The reality is citizens and customers of government have more voice and more power than ever, especially with the proliferation of social media, chat, and other digital channels. They can:

  • Complain to elected officials. This eventually adds to agency workloads.

  • Contact agency Inspectors General if they believe they’ve experienced poor management, fraud, abuse, or waste. This eventually adds to agency workloads.

  • Start social media firestorms. Few public sector leaders, or their employees, want to be at the center of that.

Why is customer experience so important for the public sector?

Customer experience (CX) efforts are growing in government, just like the private sector. But the nuances of getting the work done are different in government. Oftentimes, the work is driven by mandates, rules, new laws, and inspector recommendations.

In response, some agencies are finding their way to some edgy trends and technology, also touching the realms of digital transformation. From where I sit, these are the trends that stand out that I believe we will be seeing more of in the future.

1. Agencies are getting creative with how they collect customer feedback.

Surveys are a classic way to collect customer feedback. Most people understand what surveys are. They are easier than ever to implement, especially with the help of technology.

The problem is, it’s harder than ever to get customers to respond to those surveys. So agencies must find other ways to understand customer sentiment, when and where the customer chooses to express it, like on social media. Digital dialogues are happening all the time in that space.

New technology can listen to dozens of social channels and blogs at once, in real time, sometimes with fewer restrictions and at a faster pace than surveys.

Sprinklr’s platform listens to public conversations across 30+ social, digital, and messaging channels.

2. They are applying feedback to managing business risks.

Today’s government leaders have several big jobs: Managing risk, taking care of customers, creating efficient agencies, and leading change.

But customers of government often walk into a culture where it can be difficult to get things done. Red tape, rules, long wait times, redundant forms, jargon-laden communications, and burdensome processes are a source of stress that citizens often take straight to social media.

As a result, agencies now face the risk of social media firestorms, protests, and digital vigilantism. The spread of misinformation online has been a problem in recent years as well. This presents a risk for agencies in meeting their mission objectives.

New technology can listen to what customers are saying across social media and help agencies stay ahead of those risks.

For example, the U.S. Census Bureau is using Sprinklr to listen for misinformation in the social spheres and adjust messaging when necessary. Instant alerts flag problems for agency public relations and risk leaders, helping them meet their responsibilities.

3. CX pros realize data visualization is just as important as data itself.

There is more interest in customer perceptions now than ever before. Government CX leaders often need to prepare and present customer data and insights to colleagues, elected stakeholders, advisory boards, and special interest groups.

But government executives are pulled in a hundred different directions. Therefore, data must be instantly understandable. Data visualization is the key. Data visualization is about creating pictures, charts, and graphics with data.

CX leaders are turning to sophisticated tools that make it quick and easy to do this because they must:

  • Get the attention of busy colleagues.

  • Quickly prepare performance reports for elected stakeholders.

  • Spark meaningful conversations about customer experience standards.

  • Lead reviews of CX performance to targets over time.

  • Help citizens and stakeholders understand agency performance.

4. Agencies are finding ways to respond faster and be available to customers for more hours of the day, through chatbots and artificial intelligence.

Early chatbot technology struggled to meet customer expectations and business needs, and often failed at delivering an authentic customer experience. But, times have changed.

New AI-powered chatbots embedded in messaging apps, and in social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, fill a convenience need for citizens and customers.

That means instant answers for customers via text message and fewer people sitting on hold waiting for answers in a contact center. The benefits are:

  • Lowered contact center costs.

  • Agencies being able to respond to more people faster for more hours of the day.

  • A way to immediately learn what citizens are most concerned about.

The World Health Organization, for example, is now responding to customer questions and requests for data on COVID-19 through Facebook Messenger using Sprinklr AI chatbot technology.

5. Agencies are investing in tools that reduce job complexity for employees while also streamlining customer communications.

Public sector employees already face enormous complexities in their work. The tools leaders put in front of them should clear away roadblocks that keep employees from getting their jobs done in an efficient way.

If your agency mission includes connecting with the public and sharing information, for example, then you’re probably sharing content in more channels than ever before, maybe with a team spread out across geography.

NASA is one such organization. NASA has hundreds of social media accounts and social media managers spread across the United States. They also have mandates to share information and connect with the public. NASA partnered with Sprinklr to unify their content and the work of their social media managers. That sped up team communications and post approvals, minimized confusion, and minimized delays in pushing out content consistently.

A win-win for employees and agency customers.

Choosing the right tools for customer experience

Government customer experience professionals can have a voice and a seat at the table beyond the basics. It’s critical to understand the technology that’s available, how it can drive digital transformation, be used to meet goals and mandates, while simplifying the lives of colleagues, customers, and stakeholders.

To learn more, watch our webinar, “Top 5 Trends in Government Citizen Experience.”

Stephanie is a certified customer experience professional. She was one of the U.S. federal government’s first agency-level CX leaders during the Obama administration. She has since moved on to counsel governments and private sector organizations around the world on the concepts and practices of customer experience as a business discipline. She speaks, writes, and researches customer experience, employee experience, and leadership in government.

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