How to improve public costumer services with omnichannels?

A recent study estimates that 73% of governments in Latin America and the Caribbean have a digital government strategy. However, many citizens’ experience involves not finding a solution to simple problems in those digital channels.

Notwithstanding, it is also true –according to the same study– that 64% of Latin American citizens do not trust their national governments, and much of this has to do with the impossibility of communications between institutions and the people being served the right way.

“We need to analyze how the end users proceed, what their needs are when communicating with the agency. We can find this through an analysis of the process, in this case a citizen journey,” explains Hebé Lugo, CEO of consulting firm Strategic Minds, specializing in omnichannel services. “This way we would generate a holistic solution that helps that government to provide a positive experience.”

The omnichannel system can bring citizens and public entities closer together. In recent years, this concept has been displacing the call-center concept and even the term “multichannel”, since omnichannel refers to the use of several brand channels at the same time.

With an omnichannel system, a citizen can make a medical appointment in the public health system using the Web, make a more precise consultation by chat, reconfirm their appointment by phone and follow up their analyzes using an app on their Smartphone; These systems do not have to be separated, but integrated with a strategic concept aimed at improving the lives of users, improving the reputation of the institution and creating value systems for optimal service.

Eduardo Serra is Head of IT at Strategic Minds. A team of which Serra was part transformed the operations of the call center of the Mayor's Office of Panama, reducing call waiting times by 40%, allowing the collection of $37 million in vehicle taxes, and providing information to improve service. The solution integrated a cloud-based contact center along with interactive voice responses and chat bots.

“For a successful implementation, we always need to work very closely with the customer,” explains Serra. “Working hand in hand with us is essential, because this is a flexible system with multiple solution options.”

Omnichannels for the citizen

A 2017 study published by the National Institute of Public Administration (INAP) of Spain revealed a reality: despite great expectations for citizen adoption of digital platforms, this didn’t happen with the expected speed. Citizens just weren’t using the technology designed for them.

Despite having a website and a telephone number for inquiries –for example, in the case of a national bank where specific transactions not available in commercial banking are carried out– citizens continue to come in person and form long lines for procedures that they could perform from home. The Spanish experience is similar in other parts of the world. What was happening? In principle, it is not enough to just have the channels ready and think that an omnichannel level has already been reached with standard procedures.

Let's look at the three components of a true omnichannel experience, according to IBM, which established them back in 2014:

 

  1. A seamless integration between all channels, enabling the user to move seamlessly between the different points of contact.
  2. Transparent visibility of the data, which allows a truly personalized offer to satisfy the preferences of the users, and
  3. A user-centered operating model to ensure that everyone has an easy and rewarding experience that reflects their lifestyles and technological capabilities.

 

In other words, “the integration of online and traditional channels is a vital component of any omnichannel model,” as the INAP study reads. Thus, developing a coherent and user-centered strategy is the challenge for public institutions.

Specialized consultants such as Strategic Minds can help government institutions develop these strategies and implement them successfully.

Identifying omnichannel challenges and responses

In 2019, McKinsey published some findings on the use of digital service systems by various governments around the world. In general terms, they are not very flattering: France, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States and Mexico, all performed below the satisfaction levels provided by their private sectors.

“Government agencies need to build a holistic view of the customer experience so they can put themselves in their clients’ shoes, understand their journeys as they access services, and figure out what really delights or displeases their customers,” says the study. “The challenges can be daunting.”

These are the main challenges, according to McKinsey, that governments must overcome to improve their customer service relationship.

 

  1. The monopolistic mind-set. “Since they have no alternative but to come to me, let them hold on.” This idea prevents a competitive attitude of improvement.
  2. Trying to satisfy everyone without adapting services. The private ones usually adapt their offer of experiences due to the incentive of monetary gain. Audiences standardize their responses and create distances.
  3. Governments are often very bad at responding quickly to complaints of poor service.
  4. The data obtained from the interactions is usually sequestered in silos. For this reason, agencies and institutions lack comprehensive views of their own problems.

 

But in the era of networks, everything is at stake. A dissatisfied user is twice as likely to express their frustration on their networks or publicly. Also, a dissatisfied user is more than twice as likely to call the complaint lines, congesting resources.

On the positive side, users of public services are more than 9 times as likely to trust a public institution if they trust its services. In the United States, a government agency experienced a 50% improvement in its organizational health from a transformation in the services provided by its employees.

Overcome the resistance factor

Big data breach scandals, identity theft, phishing and scamming threats; all of these are valid reasons to doubt online interactions. How to fight against this resistance, in many cases valid from the service that is provided in the governments?

Even worse, due to what is known as SQB (Status Quo Bias), citizens choose a traditional or status quo-linked alternative to a variety of better options, partly because of cognitive resistance, partly because the new generates fear.

The omnichannel experience is the way to overcome these obstacles: multiple integrated access doors that provide the user with multiple points of contact. It is also for this reason that automated answering machines constantly remember the other available customer service channels.

Let’s look at a quick example: it is possible that a traditional housewife does not feel comfortable in front of a laptop, but surely she uses WhatsApp or some other messaging app with her family or friends. It is also very possible that she uses Facebook and from there also a government institution can communicate with her and receive her concerns.

“The intention is really to streamline customer processes,” says José Méndez, head of training at Strategic Minds. “Have a trained, monitored, empowered staff. I believe that these are qualities that our entire team has, and above all that it is focused on the vision and the north of the clients.”

As we can see, we are at a time that requires strategy and action. Already in the 2014 IBM study it was estimated that by this time 83% of consumers would manage their relationship with their suppliers without going through a human. Omnichannel systems enable efficient service delivery and generate healthy competition between institutions to improve citizen perception (“I was better served in Ministry X than in Ministry Y”).

“Who I feel in the omnichannel is a person committed to the dreams of the business, with the vision of the business –in this case, the success of a government agency,” adds Méndez. “That goes hand in hand with the organizational plans and that works directly for the success of the institution.”

About Strategic Minds

Strategic Minds, established in 2011 by Hebé Lugo in Puerto Rico, is a consulting firm specialized in marketing and sales strategies that provides ommichannel services in Latin America and the United States. Strategic Minds’ Multi-Channel Contact Center staff have extensive experience employing strategies to increase our clients’ sales, helping them make smart decisions on their growth journey. Strategic Minds is responsible for implementing improvements in your business, operations, culture, marketing, sales, and all areas where sustained growth and a profitable operation can be generated.

About Hebé Lugo

Hebé Lugo has more than twenty years of experience and has established itself as a recognized leader in strategy matters, successfully executing its vision of creating a consulting firm that meets the needs of medium-sized companies, assisting together with the Strategic Minds team in the transformation of its processes and structure to compete in the global market.

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