Transforming the citizen experience with a public sector customer-centric digital strategy
Since the COVID-19 pandemic there has been immense change for public sector agencies and their employees. State governments were required to quickly shift how and where they provided services to constituents. Processes that were once done manually and in person had to convert quickly to online as shelter at home and social distancing mandates rolled out. Not only did service demands increase, but so did the sense of urgency for fast resolution.
More than ever, state and local governments needed to deliver a wide portfolio of critical services for constituents to keep pace with rapid change. This brought about serious employee burnout, which continues to be an issue within government agencies today. To ensure local agencies can keep up with demand during and post-pandemic, government agencies have an enormous opportunity in front of them: securing the right resources and tools to transform the citizen experience with a customer-centric approach while improving employee efficiency.
Bringing private sector experiences to public sector agencies
Citizens with smartphones and internet connectivity would rather have a “retail-like” experience with their state or town governments—even more since the COVID-19 pandemic. People expect service experiences to be intuitive, friction-free and contact-less, like any online shopping experience. And the mindset is further evolving to expect proactive outreach from these agencies. If a mobile phone provider can send a monthly reminder that an upcoming bill is due, there’s no reason that a town government cannot email or text a reminder that the quarterly property tax payment is due.
Municipal agencies recognize service needs to be improved
Like larger, national organizations, state agencies have legacy systems that are creating technical debt—meaning, it would cost them more to maintain those systems than implement new ones. Reducing technical debt goes hand-in-hand with modernization—and many desperately need to modernize. Their systems haven’t kept pace, and they need to digitize their data and operations in order to improve services and function in the years ahead. They’re also looking to stretch resources as much as possible, and cloud services provide an array of digital functionalities that support citizen-centric services. While there are a variety of reasons to migrate to the cloud, an increased focus on “customer” needs is a key goal fueling this technology shift. Whether the “customer” is a constituent, local government worker or state agency customer, public sector leaders are aware that they need to modernize and make it easier to deliver services.
Automating, streamlining and transforming every process
Enter the Vermont Office of Professional Regulations (OPR) with a challenge not unlike many other agencies—a legacy application that just wouldn’t function at the pace of regulatory change as growth in new licensing responsibilities accelerated.
The OPR was using a paper application process for more than 100 application types that required a state license—everything from tattooists to veterinarians. The legacy system was limited in its ability to automate work processes staff used, and a significant amount of work was done manually. It was slow, inefficient and cumbersome for staff and constituents alike. This, together with not having a centralized database and difficulty adapting the hard-coded, legacy application, made it nearly impossible for the agency to keep up with requests. They needed a new, modern, cloud-based platform they could easily adapt to their changing business environment.
Now with its processes completely online, the OPR successfully designed and implemented its next generation licensing platform, which has automated and streamlined the full spectrum of workflows, from license administration and renewals to regulatory compliance and enforcement. The new solution completely transformed the way it processes 60,000 licenses annually, including more than 200 license types for 50 different professions. Similarly, many local agencies are using the cloud to streamline licensing administration, renewals, compliance and enforcement, making it possible to process applications for professional licenses in minutes rather than weeks.
Customer-centric approach guiding work from end to end, start to finish
Whether deep in the process of modernizing or just beginning the digital transformation, one approach is starting with the most urgent needs then bridging the gaps between legacy systems and current apps to service constituents from end to end:
- Define the customer journeys important to the agency: Understand what the process is from end to end to intake and resolve each type of inquiry—consider what needs to happen from a back-office perspective and what the constituent’s experience should be on the front end.
- Provide always-on availability through mobile and self-service: Be mobile-first, but not mobile-only. Call center, email and traditional mail are still important, and when those channels are outside of service hours, accessible self-service channels provide a way for constituents to connect.
- Use case management and intelligent guidance for transparency and consistency: A case represents the work that needs to be performed to achieve an outcome and may include planned and unplanned tasks and processes. Case management organizes all of the actions that need to take place to complete a constituent journey, expediting outcomes. It also provides managers, agents and customers with visibility into that journey every step of the way, supporting transparency and accountability. When case management is combined with a decisioning tool, government agencies can anticipate needs and proactively engage with constituents to keep them informed.
Cloud platforms give agencies a flexible way to modernize
Many might say COVID-19 propelled companies over the technology tipping point and transformed business forever. Local governments in many ways have speeded the adoption of digital enhanced offerings. Across states and municipalities, processes that previously used snail mail or face-to-face meetings now happen online and by pivoting to technology that better supports constituent-centric process efficiencies like self-service and case management, agencies can expedite approval processes and constituent microjourneys.
While the pandemic landscape might look a little different for local governments more than a year later—the push to actively improve constituent-facing processes and operations to support distributed workforces and limited office hours is still front and center for many. Whether motivated by mandate, cost-efficiencies or a desire to incorporate a more modern private sector approach to public sector operations, decision makers within state and local agencies are prioritizing more accessible service that provides a higher quality constituent experience.
Rosetta Carrington Lue, director and industry principal for state and local government at Pega, has an extensive track record innovating and improving the customer experience at agencies throughout the public sector.