How self-service tools can transform the citizen experience

Self-service is on the rise. More people want to be given the tools to answer their own queries, quickly and on their terms. While the private sector has caught on, there’s still a big opportunity for government to do the same and transform the citizen experience in the process.

According to Forrester, 72% of customers prefer using self-service to resolve their support issues. This correlates with a global rise in self-service as a channel – a 125% increase in the use of customer portals in 2015–16.

Self-service surges in popularity

What’s driving this popularity? The proliferation of smartphones has transformed the way we interact with organisations. With internet connectivity at our fingertips, we’re now using our mobile phones to do just about everything. From booking a taxi to shopping online, we’ve become accustomed to quick, easy and mobile-enabled experiences. So, it’s jarring when we have to sit on hold for 15 minutes waiting for a customer service rep.

In the private sector, we’re seeing mounting pressure on organisations to provide a smarter, user-centric customer experience, and a reliable and dedicated self-service portal is a key part of this. But, as more people experience efficient self-service in the private sector, the challenge will be on for government to provide the same.

A good self-service channel is...

A centralised place for citizens to access up-to-date, personalised information, and perform functions quickly and easily through a mobile enabled experience is at the core of a good self-service channel.

Self-serve citizen experiences have a mix of functions, ranging from static website content (i.e. FAQs) to real-time form automation and processing (i.e. renewing licences). What makes them really successful is multiple dimensions – such as a discussion board, electronic forms, live chat, FAQs and reminders – all working together to create the best customer experience.

Benefits to government

Naturally, if a citizen can quickly find the answer to a query themselves, it reduces the amount of individualised support needed. This cuts down overall customer service costs, while boosting satisfaction levels. It’s a win-win. However, the benefits don’t end there. Self-service channels also:

  1. Improve agent productivity: if service agents are getting fewer calls, they’re free to tackle more complex service issues.
  2. Teaches customers new skills: research shows that once a customer has been directed to a self-serve portal they’re more likely to continue self-serving in the future.
  3. Provides 24/7 service: in today’s fast-paced world, people don’t want to wait until 9am to have their query answered. Nor do they always want to have take time out to make a request in-person. Self-service channels cater for this 24/7 demand, without having to employ agents around the clock.
  4. Boosts site traffic: while a citizen might have visited a self-service portal for a particular reason, it’s possible they’ll stay on site, exploring other information of relevance.
  5. Provides a personalised experience: we know that customers are also demanding a more personalised experience. If citizens are logging in with their own profiles, you can create a very bespoke experience, serving up information based on previous interactions and data – at scale.
  6. Improves the employee experience: if employees are empowered with the tools to provide superior service and collaborate internally, they’re going to be much happier. Plus, access to best-in-class technology is a drawcard for attracting top talent into government.

Overcoming possible barriers

Often a self-serve portal will pull in information from a variety of back end systems and data points. To serve this data up correctly, across multiple devices, it’s important to have a coordinated platform, identity and master data strategy in place. This can be a complex process, but it’s not insurmountable. By looking at your customer interactions as a connected journey underpinned by a shared collaborative platform such as Salesforce, the complexity is greatly reduced when compared to silo deployment of tools.

To create a robust portal, you need to be able to move from agile development into release very quickly. By prototyping in non-scalable tools some organisations inadvertently create disposable assets, which stops them from moving swiftly into production. But by using agile development methods in conjunction with a flexible, scalable Platform, you can quickly add and deploy features (i.e. forms, reports, etc) as required, and build up your capabilities incrementally over time.

How NSW’s FACS is putting self-service into action

NSW Government’s Family & Community Services is one government agency unleashing the power of self-service, recently launching the Childstory Reporter website. The tool is designed to support mandatory reporters of child abuse (including doctors, police, teachers), providing them with the resources they need, in their own time.

A key feature of the site is a structured decision making tool, which helps reporters determine if the child is at significant risk and an official report to the Child Protection Helpline is needed. This also helps allocate departmental resources appropriately.

The Childstory Reporter website is taking a very complex and serious issue, and guiding mandatory reporters through the process, encouraging compliance with good UX design. It’s proving so successful that other state agencies are looking at repurposing the build for their own mandatory reporter communities. And it only took six weeks to build and deploy.

Join us at the CX Leaders in the Australian Public Sector roadshow, where we’ll be highlighting world-leading examples of innovative service delivery and discussing how digital technologies can transform citizen experiences.

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