Governments also going omnichannel

In a journal article published in the MIT Sloan Management Review, “Competing in the Age of Omnichannel Retailing,” authors Eric Brynjolfsson, Yu Jeffrey Hu and Mohammad S. Rahman, wrote that as the retailing industry evolves toward a seamless omnichannel retailing experience, the distinctions between physical and online will vanish, turning the world into a showroom without walls.”

The paper emphasized that the retail industry is shifting toward a concierge model geared toward “helping consumers, rather than focusing only on transactions and deliveries.”

It’s not just retail. In recent years, other industries that are deemed far more traditional than retail like banking or telecommunications have also adopted a strong customer-focused strategy aimed at “delighting the customer” at the branch, at the retail outlet or the customer center, online, or mobile.

Can the government be far behind?

A recent webinar hosted by research firm IDC entitled “Citizen Experience in the Third Platform” shows proof that government is actually catching up.

Using the websites of the Italian and UK governments as examples, Masimiliano Claps, EMEA Research Director, IDC Government Insights, IDC Health Insights, shows how governments are “streamlining from the old paradigm of one-stop-shops with a long list of drop down menus to using a more Google-like interface.”

“The next step is personalizing that experience for the citizen or a taxpayer and joining up that experience in an omnichannel platform,” he said.

The shift from the traditional call center in providing a citizen helpline for public services and getting feedback didn’t happen overnight. Using a case study from the City of San Francisco, IDC shows that the channel shift happened in the last five years.

Claps said in 2009, many government services were still in the call center or web self-service. In 2010, Twitter was included in the equation. The Open 311 technology platform, email, and other collaborative tools were eventually introduced.

“Channel shift can be tackled by differentiating what we call the transactional services, or historically the sweat spots for web self-service that now leverages mobile enablement, and the relational services as the technology frontier shifts, which allows more personalization of services offered to citizens,” Claps explained.

“This concept of the omnichannel that has been applied by other industries is the channel that citizens find convenient to use rather than the channel that is cheapest, the most update in terms of technology, or the less complex in terms of the workflow. It is the experience that is consistent for the citizen,” he added.

4 schools of thought

Claps noted that there are actually four schools of thought on how best to improve the citizen experience when transacting with their government, and in an omnichannel world, they need to be aligned.

The first is the view of the government executives, which is more focused on driving the cost down. A case study from the Tameside Borough Council in 2006 shows the comparative cost of channels for accessing services (or cost per visit) as follows: self-service website (GBP0.25), customer contact center (GBP1.39), Face-to-Face (GBP14.65).

The potential shortcoming of this view, according to Claps is that it drives standardization too far for types of services that would benefit from personalization and neglect interdependencies with other services.

Another view is the technologist point of view, which encourages agencies to web-enable, mobile-enable. Scott Lundstrom, Group Vice President and General Manager, IDC Health, Financial, Government Insights, said in the US this point of view revolve around the four pillars of the government’s digital strategy: information-centric, shared platform, customer-centric and security and privacy.

“There’re a lot of discussions from the technology perspective about the availability of cloud services, better mobility capabilities, much stronger analytics throughout the application of big data and new technologies there,” he said.  “Social frameworks and social media applications really do create a new technical platform for citizen engagement, and we really do see a focus on the cloud first policy…we see increasing investments in analytics, and  much on creating an information-centric shared platform that will truly deliver better citizen services while maintaining security and privacy.”

The IDC executives, however, said this has the potential to take an asset-centric, rather than a service-centric view, runs the risk of building “taller” silos for web, mobile, social, cloud, ad may marginalize the non-IT literate citizens.

Meanwhile, the service manager view is always on how the end-to-end workflow could be optimized, which may include efforts to minimize the number of unnecessary interactions with citizens or focus on preventing mistakes that can lead to rework.

What do citizens have to say?

“Citizens want it their own way. They want the government to be aware of their requirements…citizens want services delivered as soon as possible in the most convenient channel…and sometimes they forget there are some regulatory compliance and security risks and the intricate organization boundaries,” Claps said.

At the end of the day, the IDC executive said it’s not just about the tools, it’s always about excellent and consistent service.

In a Customer Experience and Social Survey of government executives conducted by IDC this year, it showed that the three most important factors in achieving a superior customer services are: customer-facing personnel that are motivated, capable and friendly (43 percent), consistent experience across different channels of customer communication (38 percent), and presence across many channels of communication, including mobile devices, social networks, chat (31 percent).

“What we want to recommend to government executives is that if you have not yet thought of the omnichannel strategy for citizen experience you should go into that direction and engage with suppliers that can support that consistency of interaction, consistency of data, consistency of workflows as new channels are added such as mobile,” Claps concluded.


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