David Moody 13 June 2014

Helping local governments to achieve digital success

Not all customers are digital or ever will be. So how does government give them what they need whilst at the same time addressing the challenge and opportunity presented by the digital customer?

The landscape for the public sector has permanently changed with recent austerity measures meaning unprecedented reductions in central government funding. Successfully delivering a digital strategy is essential to meet increased customer service demands from the digitally enabled and those without access.

As the public becomes increasingly tech-savvy, they expect organisations to adapt in parallel and provide services that meet their expectations. Customers no longer want to take part in complex, document-heavy processes when, in most other aspects of their life, everything is faster and digital.

In the latest UK Cabinet Office report on Government Digital Strategy, it was estimated that moving services from offline to digital channels can save between £1.7 and £1.8bn per year. Cost savings are derived from reduced duplication, increased productivity and less waste. Coupled with this, effective digital service provides great customer satisfaction.

However, whilst most public sector organisations have implemented some form of 'channel shift' strategy, most would say they have not yet achieved their economic goals.

Many organisations have started their digital journey, but most would admit they have experienced multiple barriers along the way. At KANA, we recently conducted research to examine what these barriers might be to help organisations address them.

Technically, the biggest hurdle for local authorities is the suitability of their services for digital access. Less than half of all authorities questioned had just one-quarter of services fully integrated and only 15% believed that the majority of their online services were linked to back-office processes.

In addition, the majority of those asked said that a lack of support from key decision-makers was negatively impacting their channel shift programme. Only one in 10 felt they had the full support of managers when adopting digital services.

Perhaps surprisingly the majority of respondents say security and authentication are not major barriers to channel change.

However, it is important to accept that not all services are suitable for digital channels. Different channels are more appropriate for different services, and the Web is just one channel that may or may not prove to be an efficient method for service delivery. A successful digital strategy frees up expertise within the organisation to deal with more-complex processes and the more-vulnerable customers.

While digital is of great importance, 'digital only' customer service strategies simply do not work.

The use of multiple software solutions to implement digital first strategies can, in itself, force organisations to duplicate logic, integrations, automations, responsive web design and security approaches, thereby significantly increasing the overall customer service expense. It can also lead to a fragmented and unsatisfactory customer experience, driving up customer dissatisfaction and complaints.

Minimising the number of disparate customer service software solutions employed will obviously reduce the need to replicate and, therefore, reduce the overall costs involved in serving the customer. The right software implementation can provide consistent data across digital and traditional channels, helping operational budgets while improving the customer experience.

Although implementing a digital strategy may appear daunting, it needn’t be. Public sector organisations need to communicate the benefits to their customers – access to services that suit them and control over their individual customer experience. At the same time, integration with existing channels is vital to ensure that no customer is left behind. It’s about offering more; more ways of getting the service you need, in more places, at more times of the day.

David Moody is the head of worldwide product strategy for KANA Software.

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