Since the 16th century, government has been bound by a struggling service reputation frequently summed up in two words: “red tape.” Government agencies are working to cut ties with this persistent persona, however. In 2011, President Obama issued Executive Order 13571, “Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service,” which directed all federal agencies to develop a customer service plan that improves the overall customer experience, reduces costs and accelerates delivery.
Initial improvements appear to be working, as the 2012 American Customer Satisfaction Index shows that citizen satisfaction with federal government service is up 2.3% from 2011 to 66.9 (on a zero to 100 scale). One key factor is the move from more traditional service methods such as the phone to more efficient online customer service initiatives.
Says Claes Fornell, ASCI founder and author of The Satisfied Customer: Winners and Losers in the Battle for Buyer Preference, “Concurrent with other studies, e-government beats traditional methods when it comes to enhancing citizens’ view about the functioning of government.
“ACSI results confirm that the promotion of e-government initiatives is not only a worthwhile pursuit,” says Fornell, “but is one that will likely continue to alter the landscape of government.”
In the latter part of 2011, the .gov Reform Task Force hosted a national dialogue on improving federal websites. Using key themes from the dialogue and Executive Order 13571, government agencies are now steadily improving overall customer service efforts by:
- Using technology to improve the customer experience. This includes using multi-channel service to streamline processes and solicit feedback to improve the customer experience.
- Using customer service best practices from the private sector to deliver services better, faster, and at lower cost to include self-service options accessed by the Internet or mobile phone.
- Viewing citizens as customers. The “change to a culture of customer service” is evident on howto.gov, a website established to help government agencies improve the customer experience.
- Simplifying information online. A recent .gov web inventory self-reported 1,489 domains and an estimated 11,013 websites from just 56 government agencies. The inventory shows a wide discrepancy in the number of domains and websites (some agencies have one; some have hundreds). Five of the major government agencies report more than 100 domains each and nearly a fifth of domains (19%) are reported as inactive. Agencies plan to eliminate or merge 30% of the domains, while maintaining 70%. In terms of web content, an intended focus is to make online content more accessible, searchable and easier to use. Additional focuses are to use plain language on government websites and create content around topics and customers versus content around agencies.
- Changing the way government agencies interact with customers. Government agencies are actively developing social media as a customer service channel and using real-time chat to help customers solve problems. Expert Labs, a non-profit that focuses on social media crowdsourcing, recently introduced the Federal Social Media Index, a tool that analyzes the Twitter activity of 125 government agencies on a weekly in order to determine which agency does the best job of interaction with the public via the social media platform. This site gives agencies such as the State Department consistently high marks for their responsiveness to social media questions and conversations on Twitter.
Do you know of a government agency that is delivering impressive or improved online customer service? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.
More Parature Customer Care Content You May Be Interested In:
- Give Customers Multi-channel 24/7 Support
- White Paper: Organizing Your Business to Deliver Effective Social Media Engagement
- Fact Sheet: Parature for Facebook
- 8 Steps to Get the Ball Rolling on a Customer Service Strategy for Social Media