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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Customer Experience: Delighting Your Customers in the Digital Age

Last time, I have asked about how big data can save lives and this time, I’d like to touch the subject of customer data as your next best ally when it comes to moving your business forward.  The key to making this strategy succeed lies with customer service – more specifically, Customer Experience.  Learn that communication with customers have won them over call scripts each time someone asks for help.  These customers want to feel that you care about their requests and that they’re treated as individuals; not some bunch of numbers on your list.  No matter how big or small they may be spending on your products or services, it’s their experience with your brand that makes a lasting impression.  So, why are we still failing in the art of conversation?

Customer Experience for the Uninitiated

You can find lots of definition about it.  Customer experience is defined as the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier (Wikipedia).  The challenge is how to meet customers’ expectations to make sure that they will have a positive experience with your brand.  For this, businesses support it with their sales, marketing and customer service departments to make sure that customer issues are resolved at every touch point.  This is why we see customer loyalty programs that turn into a valuable resource of customer intelligence, of knowing what to improve to adapt your offer to their preferences.  Still, there is this huge gap in providing a seamless service and plotting customer’s intent to purchase.  That’s where things start to get complex.  How do you deal?

A Fatal Attraction With Numbers

I can’t believe that there are still those who are running call centers on call scripts – because they’re missing out on opportunities to do more business with their customers.  This is the age of dialogue and it amazes me how many companies are getting it wrong.  Even the C-suite don’t get the reasoning behind a poor customer experience.  With all the training that management can provide about delivering that Wow! factor in customer experience – the message don’t match the intent.  We still see products that are too complicated, fine print that leaves people scratching their heads, promotions that don’t match reality, rude customer service.  All those metrics we measure on customer satisfaction have made us obsessed with numbers and the more we do, the less we feel respect for the very blood where our business thrives.  Those analytics are working against our capacity for empathy.

The Price of Efficiency

Standardization of processes are done to minimize waste and maximize efficiency, no doubt.  While this may work in the production line, with computers and machines replacing the human assembly line – the same principle may bite you in the hand if you implement it in your front line.  To provide your customers with consistent, compelling experiences is a huge task.  It’s not just about responding quickly to customer requests that will win them over, but it’s also about making each customer interaction highly personalized.  It’s leading from bottom to the top which will define your brand’s value and profitability.

Next time, I will share with you essential lessons to learn when it comes to delivering top-notch customer experience.

For now, I’d say.. “Ditch that Script!”

-End of Part One-

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It Takes Data to Delight Your Customers

Digital transformation is what everybody wants, but there are many views on what constitutes a “digital transformation.” Is it online services? Is it a social enterprise? Is it legacy transformation? Is it an analytics-driven enterprise?

The definition of digital enterprise may be all of the above, or maybe one of the above. What really matters in the end, however, is one thing and one thing only: whether the digital effort is delighting the customer and encourages him or her to keep on doing business with you.

It takes data– delivered at the right time, in the right way and in the right format– to be able to realize this goal, as explored in a recent report from Forbes Insights. “It is by pulling together high-quality data on customers from multiple sources, and capturing insights from advanced analytics and software tools, that customer engagement can be transformed across digital touchpoints,” the report further states “The goals of digital transformation of customer engagement— the hyper-personalization, relevancy, real-time feedback and on-the-fly agility are not attainable without access to relevant data available at the right time.”

The need is urgent, as it is estimated that demand for digital-related services will account for more than 70% of all external services growth, and within the year, revenue growth from data-based products will be double that of the rest of the product or service portfolios for one-third of all Fortune 500 companies. Many organizations are having difficulties joining this movement, however, as they may be encumbered by “the sheer volume of data in organizations that might have decades-long histories, as well as the dispersal of that data—in multiple CRMs, on spreadsheets, in filing cabinets— much of it conflicting, incomplete, inaccurate or otherwise untrustworthy.”

The Forbes report outlines three strategies that need to be the cornerstone of any digital transformation strategy:

Build a single view of your customer: A “single view of the customer” has been the Holy Grail of data, systems and application integration initiatives for many years now, seen in such initiatives as data warehousing and master data management. These efforts are required to be augmented by the wealth of external data now available. Enterprises need to start off by “inventorying and cataloging data, whether it is in a spreadsheet or a CRM system, and assessing it according to its completeness, accuracy and trustworthiness, as well as where it needs to be enriched by external data sets.” Relevant data may include purchase histories, communication preferences, purchase power, shopping behavior and social media activities. This requires synthesizing “structured data (addresses, household composition, socio-economic bracket, etc.) with unstructured data (like the free-form text of a Twitter feed). Doing so requires systems and processes that can handle both kinds of data, pulling together historical information along with the real-time data being generated by customers’ real-world activities.”

Use location data to add precision and context: “In a mobile world, it’s no longer enough to know who your customers are; you also need to know where they are in order to deliver a real hyper-personalized and responsive experience,” the report advises. Customer location needs to be captured within two contexts– their physical location and their digital presence such as social media usage. “Location helps to provide an important context by which to align data. For example, if a business experiences a sudden spike in returns of a faulty product, they may understand there is a problem but not what’s causing it. However, if they can see that the returns are predominantly confined to a geographical region, that may reveal a problem relating to temperature or humidity— two elements that may be affecting their product in a specific way.”

Create relevant communications at the right time on the right channel: As data reveals important details about customers, it’s important to then be able to engage them through multiple points of conversation. This requires “the use of data to inform personalization preferences around channel and device, to understand response rates at different times or days of the week, and how to devise an optimal channel mix for your audience.” It’s important to note that “sending information via a new channel requires more than simply digitizing it,” the report cautions. “Think about how unwieldy it is to view a PDF copy of a phone bill on a mobile screen that requires pinching and zooming to navigate it. Digital transformation requires a rethinking of the process, in a way that best serves the customer in the channel they are using. In the PDF example, that might mean prioritizing the important information— how much is owed, what the usage and due dates are, perhaps— and making interaction, such as paying the bill, frictionless.”

First seen:


UserReplay Market America case study

Delighting customers is critical today—you can’t
ignore it. If customers have a challenge with your
experience, they’ll quickly leave for a competitor
Michael Brady, CIO, Market America

UserReplay_Market America case study


Citizen data sharing platform launched in Singapore

myInfo pulls citizens data from across agencies.

Singapore has built a platform to let citizens check and given consent on what data they are sharing with the government.

myInfo pulls together their personal data from across government agencies into a single profile for each citizen. Users can key in additional information on their income, education, employment and family.

“Our goal is to make transacting with the government that much easier, using digital means to work jointly across agency lines to do so,” said Peter Ong, Head of Civil Service, at the Digital Government Exchange today.

Agencies will use this profile every time a user needs to fill a government form. This will do away with the need for citizens to submit the same data for different transactions, and eventually, verification of any physical documents.

“Citizens often ask why they need to give different government agencies the same data about themselves”, Ong said. “We must aim to remove that inconvenience and friction.”

myInfo screenshot

Citizens can choose whether they would like to sign up for myInfo. Every time they choose to use it, agencies will ask for consent on the specific data that will be used.

myInfo is a project by the Ministry of Finance and Infocomm Development Authority. The portal was built over a year led by the Government Digital Services team, using agile methods to design the user interface. It is undergoing constant testing and feedback to improve user’s experience on the platform.

The service is a key part of the government’s move towards delivering more predictive digital services. With sufficient data, agencies would be able to understand citizens’ needs in advance and push services to them when they need it.

myInfo will be available for 15 services by June, including registering for public housing, applying for the baby bonus scheme, updating contact details for tax payments and jobs recruitment. By 2018, all digital services that require two-factor authentication will be linked to the myInfo platform, estimated to be 200 services.

The service was piloted from January to April 2016 with 32,000 people.

The services offered by myInfo will be constantly expanded. The government is “looking to increase the number of personal data items that could be shared”, Ong said. Its remit will also grow to cover private sector transactions, such as banking, he added.

Correction: This story incorrectly identified myInfo as a digital identity scheme. It has been edited to more accurately describe the purpose of myInfo

Delighting your customers through getting the basics right

Published on: August 22, 2014
Author: Anne-Merete Jensen

There are lots of stories about companies that have delighted their customers. Take Sainsbury’s renaming its Tiger Bread based on feedback from a three year old girl that it looked more Giraffe-like or US restaurant Morton’s Steakhouse delivering a meal to an arriving passenger who tweeted, asking to be met by a porterhouse at Newark Airport.

Examples like this are undoubtedly good PR and can really humanise a brand for the wider market. However it’s the more prosaic day to day treatment of a customer which ultimately makes the difference in highly competitive markets. As an article in the Harvard Business Review argues, consumers switch suppliers because of terrible service as soon as they can. Whether it is an airline losing their bags, a utility with long hold times, a retailer that is rude or a delivery that fails to turn up when they wait in, customers will increasingly use their power to move to a competitor.

That’s not to say that customers don’t want to be delighted, but as Forrester points out, it’s more important for them to feel their time is valued. In a recent study by Forrester, 77% of consumers said that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service, significantly up by six percent from 2012.

Customers want every interaction to be smooth, clear, seamless and fast. This means that efficiency and consistency should be the first goals. ‘Delight’ can then follow as a potential added bonus. However this is often easier said than done given the scale of customer interactions, across more and more channels. So what do companies need to do? Rather than focusing on delight, it should start with getting the basics right and making the process of ordering or interacting with a company as effortless as possible.

Forrester points to 4 steps that can make the difference.

  1. Invest in making it easy for customers. Simply installing technology such as web self-service and virtual agents is not enough. Companies need to look at best practices to keep content relevant and straightforward, helping customers to get what they need with minimum effort.
  2. Build a multichannel platform. 69% of US online consumers want to be able to move between virtual and physical customer service channels, without needing to repeat themselves.
  3. Standardise the experience across channels. Ensure that every customer interaction, irrespective of media type, is queued, routed, and managed in the same manner and with access to the same information for consistency.
  4. Help your agents help customers. Give agents all the information they need (such as access to customer records) so that they can deliver personalised experiences based on understanding and context.

Much of this may sound like basic common sense but it’s amazing how frequently companies do get this wrong. With more and more interactions happening across multiple digital channels the situation is becoming increasingly complicated and existing customer teams are often overwhelmed by the number and frequency of interactions. So, rather than focusing on delighting customers every time, first look at respecting their time and delivering what they are looking for seamlessly, if you want to strengthen engagement and build loyalty.


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