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People Trust Government More When Their Digital Experience Is Better

Now that consumers are accustomed to the ease of ordering groceries, conducting financial transactions, and even receiving medical evaluations online, they want government to provide a similar level of services.

woman at a municipal office speaking to an administrator: trust in government
Woman at a municipal office speaking to an administrator. [Jacob Lund/Shutterstock]

Governments worldwide are facing a trust deficit with their constituents. While there are many reasons for the lack of confidence, one thing is clear: rebuilding trust with the public is essential. Trust in government is needed to get communities back on track on the heels of the global pandemic.

Now, recent research is a good indicator of the way forward for government organizations. The data shows the way to rebuild that trust is by establishing direct and effective digital relationships with their constituents. The Global Trust Imperative report, commissioned by Salesforce and published by third-party research firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG), reveals that:

  1. Governments that provide excellent digital experiences and communicate the benefits of sharing data report greater levels of trust among their constituents.
  2. Poor digital experiences or lack of transparency can harm the public’s perception of trust in government. 

Before we can understand why digital interactions are so central to public perceptions of the government, we must first recognize the role digital plays in daily life.

Digital satisfaction gap: How private sector technology influences customer expectations

Only 12% of customers say that digital government services offered are meeting their needs.

Advances in digital technology across the private sector have changed customer expectations for the government. As more and more consumers become accustomed to conducting financial transactions, ordering their groceries, and even receiving medical evaluations online, there is an expectation for government agencies to provide the same level of service.

However, while more than 35% of Americans report being online almost constantly, most reported disappointing experiences interacting with the government online. Furthermore, only 12% of customers say digital services offered by the government are meeting their needs.

Americans have come to expect private sector-level efficiency in their interactions with the government, and the government is too often failing to deliver. That gap between digital expectation and delivery is widening, further eroding the public’s trust in the government. However, governments aren’t necessarily resistant to change. Rather, they often have to contend with processes that are usually more complex and require more time to navigate, so adopting new tools and processes presents unique challenges that private sector organizations don’t face. With determination and consensus, however, it can be done.

51% of Americans consider making agency websites and apps easier to use is among the most critical improvements the government can make to their service delivery.

How can governments improve service delivery and begin to rebuild trust among customers? The answer is simple: improved communication and streamlined digital services.

The USDA is improving digital services to build trust with farmers and ranchers

Salesforce found that 51% of Americans consider making agency websites and apps easier to use is among the most critical improvements the government can make to their service delivery.

Organizations like the USDA that have combined the capabilities of human employees and digital technologies are developing superior customer experiences and relationships.

For example, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides services to over 2 million farmers and ranchers per year. After the devastating 2017 hurricane season, a lack of online services meant that the government had no practical way to distribute support and benefits at speed and scale. Farmers and ranchers had to drive long distances during work hours to register for programs. In response, USDA launched a portal on the farmers.gov website that farmers can use to sign up for benefits, view an interactive map of their farm, and receive other program updates. USDA customer service agents can also use the portal to record customer interactions and merge information, helping to provide a faster, more seamless experience.

Organizations like the USDA that have combined the capabilities of human employees and digital technologies are developing improved customer experiences and relationships. To deliver exceptional customer experience, embrace innovation, and build trust, federal, state, and local governments should replicate this model across the board.

Chicago DPH digital vaccine management platform rebuilds community trust

Governments can also rebuild trust by communicating community and personal benefits. Americans are also more likely to feel like they can trust the government when their interactions are transparent. Governments can do this by serving customers with easy-to-navigate platforms.

We saw examples of these strategies this past winter in Chicago’s flu vaccine management system. The city’s Department of Public Health launched an online, automated self-service platform that residents can use to schedule a flu vaccine appointment from their personal computer or mobile device. Residents can use the system to make appointments based on their location, preferred time windows, and travel distances. The vaccine management program has created a more streamlined, transparent process for residents to obtain a flu vaccine, building connection and trust in government in Chicago.

Prioritizing convenience signals trust and a commitment to the constituent.

Government customers expect convenience in most aspects of their lives as a result of innovation within the private sector, and their experiences with public sector services should be no different. It’s a significant challenge for government agencies to tackle but it’s an important step to take to earn constituents’ trust. Government agencies like USDA and Chicago DPH — who have taken cues from the private sector when implementing new technology solutions — have proven that prioritizing convenience signals trust and a commitment to the constituent. Reimagining processes to mimic the streamlined experiences private sector organizations have been honing for the past several years can improve how well agencies deliver the vital services that support and enhance their communities while also helping to rebuild Americans’ trust in government.

Learn more about how constituent expectations are changing and what agencies can do to build on this new momentum by reading the Trust Imperative report.

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