In our post-pandemic, mobile-first, online-everything society, digital seems to be the most prevalent way to forge and maintain interpersonal relationships. Being able to carry on multiple conversations with different people via text message, social media, and email isn’t considered multitasking. Instead, it’s now considered to be the norm.
So, when it comes to those same everyday interactions, governments have been working to understand how they can adapt to meet their residents where they are and encourage them to engage with services from the digital devices that are omnipresent throughout the day.
Government’s Presence in Resident Engagement is Digital
It seems almost impossible to think about the energy it takes to maintain multiple in-person conversations. The quality of those conversations is poor, the main points can get messy, and the message or intent of the conversation can become lost. Now apply that logic to in-person resident services. Manual interventions are still required in government service, but managing them with limited resources risks a customer service misstep.
The need to streamline trackable interactions is why residents and staff rely more on digital services. However, there is a difference between being online and offering engaging and efficient digital services. Being engaging is more than just being available digitally. While being online does help meet residents where they are (smartphones, tablets, mobile apps), encouraging adoption and engagement needs to go a step further.
How to Encourage Digital Services Use
If meeting residents where they are is step one, facilitating a trustworthy connection between your government and residents is step two. In a recent study about e-government service adoption, perceived service quality and trust in government were found to positively predict the intention of residents to use and recommend digital services.
Governments can take several initial steps to help build and maintain trust with their residents, including implementing a resident request management tool. Hearing residents’ issues while providing a transparent and streamlined way to rectify their concerns is the social proof people need to know their government leaders care and are responsive. Once trust has been established, so has the foundation for ensuring positive behavioral responses from the public, including the adoption and usage of digital government services.
Tactics for Increasing Resident Adoption of Digital Services
The following eight tips will support your government’s efforts to build a digital bridge between your residents and your community.
- Partner with Property Management and Real Estate Companies
Moving into a new space is exciting, and residents want to learn about their neighborhood and new surroundings. Ask apartment building managers and local realtors to include a flyer with information about your resident request and 311 mobile application. Use it to report issues and public works requests in the neighborhood.
- Target Residents with Social Media Advertising
Social media advertising allows you to target specific community members with impactful and relevant messaging. Since it is estimated that 81 percent of Americans have at least one social media profile, the most popular being Facebook, many of your residents are likely using social media to learn about their community. As a result, social networks allow for some of the most targeted advertising options.
With Facebook, for example, by targeting those individuals who have recently indicated in their social profile that they are in your city, town, or county, you can serve residents an engaging ad that promotes your resident request and 311 mobile app. An example of an impactful advertisement may be a video that showcases how to report a problem like a pothole or felled tree branch using the service request app.
- Make an Announcement During a Community Group Meeting
Your community most likely has groups of like-minded individuals that meet regularly. Identify those groups like local neighborhood associations, local business councils, and religious organizations and ask to speak at a meeting to promote the usage of your resident request and 311 mobile app and how it can benefit their mission.
- Optimize your Public Works Department Webpage
Search engine optimization involves using common keywords in your website content to help improve the appearance and positioning of web pages in organic search results. By understanding what problems your residents are looking to solve using your municipal website, you can incorporate those terms into your website and point them in the direction of the resident request and 311 mobile app.
Tip: To make it easier for residents to download the app, create a QR code for your webpage that links directly to the app store.
- Utilize SMS Text Messages and Automated Phone Messages to share information
As pointed out earlier, the public steadily relies on mobile devices to gather information. Using a mass notification system to send promotional text and phone messages takes advantage of user habits and is a proactive way to reach your residents before they have a problem.
- Set Up a Phone Tree System
While some residents prefer to use their mobile devices, some may want to reach out to their government by phone. To help reduce the number of calls your staff receives and empower residents to self-serve their inquiries using other channels, set up an automated phone messaging system that directs users to download your mobile app. Think pizza delivery meets government service delivery.
- Direct Mail (Yes, really)
Sometimes, going back to basics can help effectively deliver a message. For example, create a direct mail piece and send it to residents’ homes. Also, include information about what your resident request and 311 mobile app does and step-by-step instructions for user download.
Tip: Utilize a QR code that links directly to the app store for easy download.
- Guerilla Marketing
Sometimes the best way to get peoples’ attention is to cause a scene. Work with your Public Works team to safely create an obvious community issue—something that residents would be quick to report. For example, perhaps you could place a tree stump in the middle of a paved park pathway (as long as it does not impede the ability of individuals or persons with a disability from passing by it). At the scene, post a sign that directs passersby to download and report the problem using your community’s 311 app. Make it clear that it is a clever marketing tactic. Track how many reports come in to get a better understanding of how users are engaging with the app. Then create a public relations campaign about your guerilla effort to further amplify its impact.
Creating and maintaining digital resident services is the best path to modernization and one of the best ways to help establish trust between residents and your governments. By taking digital engagement one step further and encouraging residents to adopt and interact with government services, everyone can help contribute to bettering their community.