Last week, the Digital Government Institute conducted a panel and roundtable discussion on ways the government is creating a better online customer service experience. The panel included GSA’s acting director for the Center of Excellence in Digital Government, Sheila Campbell; the director of web services for the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, Kim Taylor; and RightNow Technologies’ VP, Brian Curran.
Some of the sessions’ key points included:
- Quality customer service online is important to government agencies. Between the panelists and roundtable discussions every agency / department representative said that the increasing number of people searching for information online makes a positive customer experience mandatory. While many of these initiatives were underway before the recent Executive Order, the increased emphasis on customer experience is reaching into all areas of government.
- Define who your customers are both internally and externally. Knowing your audience is a crucial step to learning what content needs to be developed and how it needs to be presented. Government officials felt that knowing more about their users – using the data available about customer touch points – better enabled them to tailor services.
- Your website is a reflection on your organization. Everyone present echoed the need to get away from poorly designed websites that lacked proper navigation or common features that users expect when surfing online.
- Government destinations online need to mirror the bottom of an escalator in a train station. So, what does this mean? Well, it was an interesting analogy presented by Sheila Campbell. Her point was that the most important signs directing you to where you need to go must be front and center on your home page. Not unlike the bottom of an escalator in a train station, where the signs point people to the most critical areas: trains, tickets and toilets.
- Learn from others in the private sector. Private sector companies, like Southwest Airlines, who have been successful in creating an excellent customer experience are great resources for finding innovative ways to communicate with customers.
Other key discussion points were how government employees were working around a lack of resources, adopting free online tools and working hard to change the cultural mindset that often discourages creativity and aggressive action.
Using data and search improvements, the government is already improving on the way constituents find relevant information. By implementing a user-centric approach, government is delivering more information with fewer sites.
What does this ultimately mean to government contractors?
Though the government is coping with budget constraints and culture changes, there are still opportunities to provide services and technology to government agencies. However, the main idea to take into account is to always find out what a particular government client needs before you start providing solutions.