“I don’t have time to call an office and sit on hold or drive across town to City Hall. So if I can’t do it online, I won’t do it.”
This statement summarizes a growing sentiment among residents. As more business services become digital, fewer people choose to transact business and services using analog methods.
- 80% of people prefer card payments over cash
- By 2024, online food delivery services project to be a $32 billion industry
- Since 2011, digital streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO have seen sales balloon by 1,231%, while DVD sales have declined more than 86% since 2008
- Consumers spent $870.78 billion online in the U.S. in 2021, up 14.2% from the prior year
With expectations for digital services high, the simple offering of online self-service functionality ensures resident satisfaction and appreciation.
For local governments, in particular, simply making digital services available is not enough to ensure appreciation and interactions that foster positive civic experiences. Like in-person customer services, digital interactions need to be personalized, frictionless, and singular, or you risk disappointing and frustrating residents to great detriment.
A 2020 study found that 65 percent of digital experiences do not meet consumer expectations, an unfortunate reality during the pandemic when quarantined consumers had few options to obtain services and information in person. Follow-up questioning revealed that consumers’ frustrations lay in their belief that digital services still needed to be supportable by human involvement. Consumers felt it was not enough for entities to claim they offered digital services. If those interactions were not intuitive and resulted in frustration or an inability to complete a transaction, it was just as damaging to the brand’s reputation as a contentious interaction with a customer service representative.
Turning the Digital Disappointment into Digital Delight
How can local governments avoid the risk of their digital resident interactions turning into a detrimental disappointment? The key is to ensure the implementation of digital tools built to complement the types of positive in-person interactions that define high-quality service.
Like in-person interactions, digital services must foster experiences that are empowering, effective, and accessible.
Nobody wants to feel like they are just another number in the customer service queue. However, digital interactions that can be personalized deliver warmer, more targeted, and economical experiences. For example, after a resident purchases a dog license online, if the digital interface they are using completes the transaction with a list of local dark parks, it creates the impression of having one’s needs acknowledged.
Beyond personalization, a critical component of fostering positive digital interactions is that they enable one-touch resolution. As a result, governments need to provide a centralized interface that makes one-stop access to the administration of services possible. Unfortunately, municipalities’ limited budgets often mean that the technologies they utilize are outdated and siloed, requiring residents to navigate pages of content and move between systems until they complete a transaction that they felt should have been easier and faster.
As a correlation to singular services, the most valuable civic experiences are frictionless. Such interactions utilize technologies that automate manual processes and optimize workflows both within and across departments, interoperating with legacy systems as needed.
Creating Positive Civic Experiences
If residents expect their local government to offer digital services, but the risk of such tools disappointing could be more damaging to the relationship between local governments and the public than not offering them at all, what steps should local governments take to choose and implement tools that will foster resident trust and appreciation?
1. Look for Comprehensive and Integrable Tools
To avoid fractured experiences and broken hearts, consolidate systems and vendors by finding a technology partner that will work with you to understand your unique workflows and department data-sharing and then build a system tailored to your staff and residents.
2. Add a Chatbot to Your Website
Chatbots can replicate the positive, personalized customer service interactions that residents expect from a phone call to a department office. When incorporated into your municipal website, you can expedite getting residents the information they need while minimizing phone calls and emails to busy staff members.
3. Allow Residents to Customize Their Notification Services
The best way to complement those moments when residents come to you to conduct a transaction is to build a relationship in which they expect and appreciate proactive updates about the aspects of community life that matter most to them and their families. Add to your software stack a subscription-based communication system that allows residents to choose the types of content they receive and the communication channel. Such proactive updates will keep them informed about community progress, fostering appreciation and trust that will enable patience and understanding the next time a resident has a transactional service experience that is anything less than five out of five stars.
If your community is ready to begin its digital transformation experience, take this ten-question assessment to learn where you stand today on the digital transformation spectrum, and then learn the steps you can take to leverage technology to create positive civic experiences.