Going Social: How Government Can Boost Program Outcomes Through Online Customer Service

Government departments are under ever-increasing demand to deliver more cost-effective programs and attain higher levels of customer engagement. These requests have emerged in part because traditional methods of communication between government and the public have lost their thunder. Reaching customers by mail or phone is no longer as effective, as more and more Australians turn to the mobile internet or social media channels as their engagement mediums of choice.

At Datacom, we‘ve helped the government engage better with the public online by implementing solutions that give customers more choice and convenience in how they interact. One approach has involved equipping government contact centres with a range of ways to communicate with the public, including instant message, email and SMS paired with more traditional methods like phone. We also help government organisations design and implement web sites, contact forms, checklists and interactive tools that allow customers to solve their own issues and requests more quickly.

Enabling the public to communicate the way they want, when they want to

Public sector agencies in Australia that still rely upon the phone as the only way to communicate with citizens risk poor customer satisfaction. Australians are the most prolific users of social media in the world. They want to be able to use social media channels, in addition to web site forms and email, to get in touch with government departments easily and on their own time.

A 2011 Australian Government Information Management Office report showed the biggest increases in types of communication used to get in touch with government are social networking, accessing the Internet on a mobile device, making phone calls online and SMS. Eighty-two per cent of people said they use the Internet to contact government because it is convenient, with the number of individuals using social networking sites for communications having grown to 47 per cent in 2011 from 36 per cent in 2009. Of those who contact the government online, 83 per cent reported high satisfaction with their experience in terms of the speed of responsiveness to their enquiries and usability of associated web tools.

Not only does giving the public a wider breadth of tools for engaging with government help increase customer satisfaction, it also helps the public sector receive a wider range of responses related to their programs. Inviting individuals to engage on social media solicits a larger sample size of the population, including additional users in rural areas and youth who might not otherwise engage through more traditional communication methods, giving government a truer picture of how their programs are performing.

Fostering self-service

2011 Australian Government Information Management Office report also shows that public sector organisations that offer self-help tools — web site pages, assessments and checklists, for instance — tend to produce higher customer satisfaction ratings. Self-help tools can provide better access to information, faster resolutions to questions or issues and greater transparency across government services.

Datacom has seen this trend first-hand with our launch of the KANA Lagan CRM platform to the City of South Perth in August 2012. Delivered in partnership with KANA Software, Inc., the solution gives tens of thousands of residents more customer service options such as self-service online tools to increase resolution time and streamline customer service requests. Through backend integration, this self-help function also gives City of South Perth customer representatives all the information on the customers they need to respond to their requests and allows customers to track the progression of their enquiries.

Datacom is sponsoring the Measuring Service Delivery conference for the public sector in Canberra today and tomorrow. To read a case study of our work with KANA Lagan and City of South Perth, request a download link at this page

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