5 Customer Service Mistakes for Government Agencies to Avoid After the Pandemic

Current State of Government Customer Experience

What is the citizen experience of government services?

Despite some recent improvement, government organizations are still struggling to provide high-quality citizen experience.

  • The sector ranked last in Forrester’s CX Index from 2021, a repeat of 2019 and 2020.
  • According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s (ACSI®) Federal Government Report 2021, citizen satisfaction declined by 2.6% to a score of 63.4.

When not done well, customer service not only creates frustration but also erodes trust in government, which has been under siege recently.

Where are government organizations falling short? What can agency leaders do to improve citizens’ trust in their ability to deliver great customer service in the post-pandemic era?

What CX Mistakes Should Government Agencies Avoid?

Here are some of the most common customer service mistakes that they should avoid as they plan for the post-pandemic era.

Mistake #1: Underestimate the Staying Power of Digital

80% of consumers have increased their use of digital customer service since the start of the pandemic, according to a study, conducted by Dimensional Research, on behalf of eGain. In fact, the same survey found that the government sector dropped the most in customer satisfaction with digital customer service during the pandemic outbreak.

Customer satisfaction with government customer service dropped the most among 6 sectors since COVID onset (Dimensional Research-eGain survey: Impact of COVID-19 on Digital Customer Service)

McKinsey’s Digital Sentiment Survey found that 75% of people who started using digital channels for the first time want to keep using digital tools after life returns to “normal.”

Clearly, digital is no passing fad, but the digital customer service offered by government agencies needs significant improvement.

  • During the pandemic, government agencies offered the least choice in digital channels and ranked the worst for digital customer service, according to the above-mentioned Dimensional Research survey.
  • Except for a few outliers, most government websites and mobile apps are slow and clunky compared to what commercial organizations offer their customers. In Forrester’s US Federal Customer Experience Index, 2020, only 54% of customers said that federal websites and mobile apps performed well, compared to 79% who said the same for multichannel retailers’ websites and apps.

Note: With technologies such as messaging, chat, and even phone, combined in realtime with cobrowsing, government organizations can do far more with digital tools and create great experiences for citizens, while keeping service costs down.

Mistake #2: Omnichannel is Only for Retailers

Part of retail parlance a while ago, the concept of omnichannel customer service is now widely accepted across all industries, including the government sector. Citizens should be able to contact their government agencies over any channel—digital, phone, or physical (in-person office visits, postal mail), and switch channels without a break in their experience.

But according to the Forrester US Federal CX Index, 47% of customers, who combined digital and physical  channels, were not able to accomplish their goals easily. Having to start over in a cross-channel journey remains a major deterrent to good citizen experiences.

The answer? Take a hub approach to customer engagement, where channels are unified to show your agents a complete view of customer conversations.

Mistake #3: Ignore Compliance and Quality of Answers

The stress and uncertainty of the pandemic meant that people needed answers immediately. Government contact centers have since been overwhelmed with queries about a broad array of topics, including lockdown and reopening policies, vaccinations, financial and social safety nets, and health coverage. The transition to the post-pandemic era will take time and agencies will continue to get inquiries on these topics and more, including Economic Impact Payments made to eligible citizens as part of the American Rescue Plan. It is important for government organizations to keep the public updated with the latest and most accurate information, over whichever touchpoint they choose. However, this has been far from reality.

Consumers are getting confused with conflicting answers. Answers change depending on what touchpoint was used and which agent the consumer talked to. In the same Dimensional Research survey, 57% of consumers complained that they got different answers from chatbots and human agents when they contacted government agencies with the same question.

The solution? Deploy an omnichannel knowledge hub, that is powered by AI and reasoning to enable easy findability of answers and conversational guidance for customers and agents alike. Conversational guidance also ensures compliance with regulations and best practices. The hub approach will make sure there is a single right answer for customer queries across channel and people touchpoints.

Mistake #4: ROI is for the Private Sector

Government organizations do not operate in the same way as a private sector business, and for good reason—they have different missions, they provide public services, and they do not always quantify business value or ROI in the same way as the private sector. However, pressure has been mounting to hold government agencies more accountable for generating value from tax dollars.

Note: Mature customer experience solution vendors offer sophisticated capabilities to measure customer service KPIs, identify breakpoints in customer journeys, and improve contact center operations. Government organizations do not have to fly blind, wondering if their customer experience tools are really working or not.

Mistake #5: Feature Checklists are the Gospel

While feature checklists are a good starting point, look under the covers. Checking the list is one thing but delivering rich capabilities out of the box is another. It is not uncommon for buyers to get fooled by these lists only to find out later that the vendor simply provides a toolkit, leaving the onus of building the application to the agency, or that they only offer barebones capabilities. Also look for proven domain expertise. How long has the vendor been around to learn from the trenches and solve corner cases that you are bound to have? Has the vendor delivered at-scale deployments for the government sector? Asking these questions is equally critical for success.

By avoiding these mistakes in their planning process upfront, government leaders have a great opportunity to shine and build citizens’ trust in their agencies.

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