How agencies can use automation to streamline citizen services
December 17, 20212:20 pm
5 min read
This content is sponsored by Pegasystems, Inc.
The pandemic created an increased demand for online government services, as physical locations and employees were sent home. But in many cases, that meant citizens were relegated to either phone or email when communicating with their government, and those channels quickly became overwhelmed. Even agencies that offer more options than that often don’t have them linked in a way that provides streamlined services to citizens. So how can agencies evolve to provide simple, non-bureaucratic, personalized services, and give citizens the information they need in the way they want and expect in today’s digital age?
Automation, in its various forms, can help agencies achieve this goal. For example, a simple automation implementation can go a long way toward helping to alleviate that email overload.
“A state agency was overwhelmed with a high volume of phone calls and staffing shortages due to the pandemic. Many of the calls were from citizens attempting to schedule coverage appointments or inquiring about their provider benefits; however, the agency’s service providers were having a difficult time communicating with the agency to let them know their availability schedules and expanded hours of operation. The lack of real time updates was creating unnecessary friction for everyone involved,” said Rosetta Carrington Lue, director and industry principal for state and local government at Pegasystems. “To help improve the provider data updates on scheduling availability, the agency leadership decided to set up multiple email boxes for those vendors. Unfortunately, deflecting calls to emails only exacerbated the problem. If state agencies are not automating that process, using artificial intelligence, or through some robotics, those emails typically sit in queue until an agent gets around to manually processing the document. And I’ve seen scenarios where agencies will tell you it could take up to 10 days just to respond to a simple inquiry.”
But many of these inquiries are simple enough – or at least, asked frequently enough – that the answer is readily available via a real-time FAQ. Answering questions of that nature can be digitalized through AI; in fact, everyone interacts with this form of automation every day. It’s the same kind of technology that supplies suggestions or answers as you type a search into Google. If agencies can implement this kind of technology into their case management systems, they can avoid escalating most of these questions to an employee and make significant progress on their backlogs. Employees can then spend more time on more complex citizen conversations and needs.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Answering frequently asked questions via email isn’t the only repetitive task that doesn’t require human involvement anymore. Agencies across federal, state, and local government have discovered new efficiencies through automating their backend processes, and made progress toward finally resolving one of the oldest and most oft-repeated laments about every government in history: Why does it take so long to get something done?
“The number one goal of somebody that’s working in public service is really to help the citizen. If you’re in the customer service business and supporting government, that’s what’s really driving you,” Lue said. “So there is nothing more frustrating than an employee that’s trying to help a citizen who’s having a difficult or frustrating process in getting benefits or answers or resolving a situation. You’re wanting to concentrate on helping that person. But they have these barriers of clunky systems and processes. For the employee to get from A to B in a simple manner, they must try to quickly go through multiple iterations, different systems, all while placing the person on hold. Much of the technology platforms that exists in government are not really meant for today’s fast-paced environment.”
Unfortunately, due to decades of investments and customization, these systems can’t just be torn out and replaced. But what agencies can do is use low-code development to wrap automation around these systems and create more streamlined case management systems. For example, a local government employee dealing with complaints about potholes would have to use at least two different systems: one to check the status of a citizen’s complaint to ensure it was received and registered, and another to determine when workers will be sent out. And this is just for a simple pothole complaint; some agencies can have more than a dozen different systems that contain information pertinent to a single citizen inquiry.
With low-code development, employees can create a single dashboard requiring only a single login, which uses automation to pull all that pertinent information from every system and provide it in a unified view. That streamlines their ability to help the citizen and makes the process more efficient and timelier.
Finally, automation can be used to create true omni-channel experiences for citizens. Some vendors offer multiple channels of communications – phone, email, chatbots, etc. – and call that omni-channel. But true omni-channel communication means it’s all linked centrally. So if a citizen begins filling out information on a website, but decides they need help and calls the agency directly, the employee on the phone would already have access to the information the citizen filled out online, rather than having to ask them to start over. That’s true omni-channel. You meet the citizen where they are, not the other way around.
“What that omni-channel experience is giving you is that the citizen can do business with government 24/7, 365. It’s really given them that preferred channel of choice with just one single interface, which improves the efficiency of government and eliminates the numerous and disparate multiple applications that citizens have to use,” Lue said. “Government agency leaders can improve their digital citizen’s experience by automating complex processes while focusing on the citizen’s journey. Simultaneously, agencies will improve the employee’s experience and support their delivery of outstanding customer service while using AI-infused automation and self-service tools, regardless of the technology already in place, including existing service desktops.”