How Government Agencies Can Deliver Holistic Citizen Experience Programs

Meeting citizens where they are is the key to building better constituent relationships.

By Yext

Dec 20, 2023

4 min
How Government Agencies can Deliver Holistic Citizen Experience Programs

Imagine this: a citizen calls one of their state agencies looking for information on how to apply for a marriage license. They're excited about their big day, but they're also a little frazzled because they couldn't find the answer they needed online. What should have been a simple search has now led to a phone call and the prospect of a long time on hold.

When the hold music ends, a representative answers and starts to work down their preset list of questions to no avail — because, as it turns out, the answer the citizen is looking for lies under the jurisdiction of another agency. There's nothing the representative can do, and the call ends with both parties disappointed. The citizen is left without an answer after many hours on hold and now has to spend additional time performing similar searches with a different agency, while the representative was unable to answer the caller's question(s).

This scenario probably sounds familiar. Navigating government services online can be challenging, an experience fraught with phone trees, long hold times, and unanswered questions.

The frustration increases when major life milestones are involved: an impending marriage, a recent death in the family, an upcoming retirement–or even being displaced by a disaster. And whether the milestone is good or bad, the person experiencing it is likely stressed — and seeking answers. Government representatives want to give them those answers, but they're not always easy to come by.

But they can be. By delivering a holistic citizen experience (CX) program, agencies can provide citizens with the answers they seek no matter what life has in store for them — building trust in the process.

Understanding the citizen experience

According to the GSA Centers of Excellence (CoE), understanding what your customers need is central to effective CX efforts. We've already seen the rise in customer satisfaction and trust in government when the public sector can deliver better answers. American citizens are eager for efficient and accessible experiences when interacting with government services, both at the state and federal level. This could be for something as commonplace as directions for filing taxes — or as unprecedented as seeking recovery from a flood or earthquake.

Regardless of the type of milestone, the outcome should always be the same: seamless self-service experiences that deliver not just information, but the correct information. Citizens should be able to easily find what they're looking for without picking up the phone and calling into an already over-taxed, understaffed call center. And they should not have to contact multiple agencies to find an answer to a single question.

The government exists to serve the public

Developing a more direct route to information — one that breaks down barriers between agencies and other government organizations to deliver a more streamlined service experience — is the key to providing a CX program that truly meets civilian needs. Publicly available information and data must be relevant and easy to access, and the process should meet each individual at their technical ability, regardless of differing backgrounds like technological know-how, age, native language, etc.

The GSA CoE also notes that effective CX implementation supports internal policies and governance structures as well as externally-facing processes. Just as much as citizens need more readily available access to information, that representative answering the phone needs it, too, so they can more effectively answer questions quickly and accurately, leading to shorter call times and lower overall support costs.

And in order to effectively deliver better CX, there needs to be a focus on internal organizational change management. For example, agencies must break down siloed systems and gated cross-agency information. These barriers can reduce access to information and create frustrating and duplicative experiences for citizens looking for what could be simple and direct answers. Call centers should shift from being the first point of contact to the last, as flooded customer service lines create inefficient, costly, and discouraging scenarios like the one we described above.

AI-powered search driven by natural language processing can help in both scenarios. AI allows agencies to provide citizens with easy-to-understand answers, right from the agencies' websites. This can reduce the number of incoming calls and free up channels and representatives to tackle the really important matters.

Now imagine: making life easier for everyone

Instead of having to call into their agency's customer service line, imagine that the individual seeking information on marriage licenses was able to quickly find what they needed on the agency's website simply by typing a question – 'how do I apply for a marriage license?' No phone call, no frustration, no problem. Citizens expect personalized experiences that mimic those in their day-to-day lives; however, government agencies have historically focused on creating content and web pages, rather than delivering direct answers through self-service. The focus is now shifting towards the citizen, and both state and federal agencies have a hyper-focus on building public trust through equitable solutions that focus on delivering citizen benefits and services.

Crafting an effective CX program that helps people navigate life's milestones and build better customer relationships requires continual effort, but the right technologies can make it easier. Solutions that support secure and reliable information-sharing between agencies and present contextualized information to users in easy-to-understand ways are a great starting point. They make life a lot easier for citizens and customer service representatives alike, guiding them to not only better answers, but the best answers.

Learn more about how to increase your customer experience maturity level and deliver better citizen services in this guide.

How to Increase Your Customer Experience Maturity Level and Deliver Better Citizen Services

A guide for federal and state government agencies considering how to improve customer experience (CX) for constituents.

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