Historically, the federal government has faced challenges in delivering exceptional customer service, with some concerns being raised about slow response times and the use of outdated digital platforms. In the last year, President Biden’s executive order mandated 17 federal agencies including the IRS, Social Security, Passport services, and the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve their level of service. In the next year and beyond, implementing modern customer experience (CX) technology will serve as the linchpin that drives forward the digital transformation and improvement of customer service for these agencies.
Interestingly, the 2022 Forrester CX Index for most industries decreased during the past year, whereas the CX Index for the federal government remained constant in a statistically significant way. Certain federal agencies even performed above the average in these rankings, including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Tricare, Medicare, Medicaid and the Postal Service.
However, to continue improving CX the federal sector will need to implement a growing number of chatbots to alleviate its contact centers and employees who deal with an overwhelming amount of calls and requests daily. Investing in automation and chatbots will be a crucial first step for the government to start improving public service delivery and CX.
Why government chatbots are no longer optional
During the 2022 tax season the IRS received about 73 million telephone calls from taxpayers looking for help. Yet only about 10% of those calls reached an agent, underscoring how critical it is for federal agencies to implement chatbots.
Chatbots offer round-the-clock customer support to the public, connecting them to various public services through mobile devices, desktop computers and phones. They can provide citizens with significant information related to policies, regulations and laws, as well as crucial personal details and processes that may be challenging to discover or implement otherwise.
Federal agencies should also utilize chatbots on their website to assist customers with self-service options to get instant online answers without interacting with human agents or directing customers who need further assistance to the right department. By incorporating chatbots and other omnichannel platforms such as SMS, social media and email inquiries, customer support traffic can be diverted away from live phone conversations and free up agents’ time. This shift will allow them to increase their bandwidth to help more individuals and provide a more customized experience for each person.
However, after deploying these new communication channels it is essential to conduct ongoing testing to ensure that none of the channels are malfunctioning and causing customers to experience difficulties. CX testing and assurance play a crucial role in this process, allowing for continuous testing to detect and resolve any issues before they have a detrimental impact on customers.
How the public sector can implement chatbots successfully
To address customer issues and prevent losing customers, it is imperative to verify that all CX technology is functioning correctly and efficiently, especially if it is primarily designed to operate autonomously. For instance, if your call center frequently disconnects calls when chatbots try to transfer customers to another department, it can cause significant frustration for customers.
Although, unlike the private sector where customers can switch to another company if they receive poor service, the services required from the government can only come from specific departments. And when government agencies provide subpar CX, constituents are forced to continue to receive unsatisfactory service, jeopardizing the reputation of government agencies. So what is the solution?
Testing chatbots is the solution and there are six types of testing that must be performed, including regression testing, Natural Language Processing (NLP) testing, end-to-end testing, security testing, performance testing, and production monitoring. Each of these testing methods serves a specific purpose, such as testing every conversation scenario, guaranteeing a smooth experience across all platforms, or monitoring how efficiently bots handle high-pressure situations.
To avoid overlooking potential issues, automated tests should be conducted throughout the entire development process, as well as in live CX environments. Automation plays a crucial role because it enables businesses to conduct all the essential testing, reduces the amount of time spent on manual testing and enables faster innovation within a project.
The crucial role of chatbots in federal programs
Many federal programs, including tax payments, small business loans and passport applications, are a crucial part of citizens’ daily lives. The purpose of these programs is to improve their lives, but it becomes difficult to achieve this goal if they are overwhelmed by paperwork, unable to find the necessary information or stuck in an endless cycle of automated phone systems.
Poor CX can have a negative impact on the government as well. Especially if citizens need to make repeated inquiries or complaints to resolve issues, leading to additional staff time and resources being required. Citizens may also be less likely to participate in government initiatives or provide feedback on policies if they feel that their voices are not being heard. Therefore, it is crucial for the federal sector to invest in and implement chatbots successfully to enhance the quality of public service delivery and CX.