Digital communication has us in its grip. We search online, we book online, and we shop online. We share reviews and voice our pleasure – and displeasure – through social media without a second thought.
To keep up, companies have learned to track, analyze, and understand the nuances of their customers’ behaviors and experiences across multiple channels so they can promote their products effectively and target them accurately to enhance their purchasing decisions. This level of personalized interaction keeps customers happy, secures their loyalty, and helps generate more profit.
In the commercial world, the customer is king. Regardless of whether they interact through a website, on a mobile app, or through social media, their experience must be consistent, and of the highest quality.
This is why retailers and brands have invested in unifying all the relevant, previously siloed, departments like product development, warehouse management, marketing, sales, web management, delivery, and customer support. Only through a unified, rich, omnichannel service can a seamless experience be provided to the customer.
What customers expect when interacting with any organization is the same as what they’ve come to expect with retailers – and it’s time for the public sector to catch up to the demands of their modern citizens.
Connecting the public sector with the people: Citizen engagement hubs
I know from working many years as a consultant in the public sector that there are synergies between commercial and public organizations. Customers, or in the case of the public sector, citizens, need to be central, and all services should be developed and made available with their needs in mind. This means providing them with a great experience every time they interact.
There are many challenges in getting this right, not least in managing the enormous amount of data that comes with each and every citizen. The data is personal; it can relate to their health, their occupation, their home, multiple areas of their lives, and it needs secure storing, while also making the data easily available to every public service when needed.
Citizens are looking for a seamless, personalized experience when they interact with public service organizations in the same way that they do when purchasing online. They don’t want to spend time and effort inputting their details every time they use a new service.
Digital transformation can help meet their requirements, enabling public services to create state-of-the-art citizen engagement hubs that can access all of this personal data instantly in every city, region, and country, as well as provide citizens with consumer grade experiences.
The technology that enables citizen engagement hubs is sophisticated and powerful, but it requires careful configuration, with, typically twenty or thirty services in the first six months, and another 100 added every subsequent six months. This investment in time pales by comparison with the impact on citizens, who benefit from improved communication, faster interactions, and the delivery of improved services.
For the organization the benefits are multiple, not least of which is major reductions in spending.
To achieve success with citizen engagement: 3 important considerations
1.) Citizens must be at the center of all services. The journey must be end-to-end with each service designed to satisfy individual requirements. Data should be readily available for all services and applications to access.
Adding personalization and recommendations is important for the customer experience, eg. issuing a message to a citizen when their passport is due for renewal with the steps they need to take. Access to personal data/services/documents/assets should be from one central location on any device and be secure, efficient and fast.
2.) Integration of data is key. As city populations grow, it doesn’t necessarily follow that budgets and manpower grow at the same rate. Integrated online applications will help to automate standard processes, reduce costs, and ensure citizens receive a more efficient service. The more sophisticated digital transactions become, the less requirement for personal interaction, but even if this is necessary, the data is consolidated to allow for easy, up to date access.
3.) Personalize the services to please the people. Despite the pull of globalization, citizens who are involved and fulfilled in their city will stay, and it is their success, and the investment they give back, that helps cities prosper. For older generations, the benefits of personalized services will be felt in streamlining and improving medical provision and improving integration into social networks and health-boosting programs.
Public sector investments are moving beyond physical infrastructure and embracing digital systems and the citizen engagement hub is central to this. It provides the type of customer experience that commercial brands and retailers have been perfecting for years and behind the scenes it collates vital personal data so that services can be perfected and delivered to citizens seamlessly and across whatever channel they choose to use.
We are at the beginning of a digital revolution in public services, and it will bring positive change for cities and for citizens, too.