Insight by Granicus

CX Exchange 2023: Granicus’ Charlotte Lee on 3 ways to enhance customer experience through active communications

By inserting more data-driven and personalized communications into service interactions, agencies will gain trust among their constituents and also drive desire...

An experienced customer experience practitioner observed that direct communications with individual customers is a crucial, but often overlooked, component of any CX improvement program. Government agencies often lack that communications link, said Charlotte Lee, strategic lead for CX and innovation at Granicus.

In the private sector, communications link the purely technical parts of digital interactions with the more intangible considerations embodied in journey mapping and human-centered design, Lee said during the Federal News Network 2023 CX Exchange.

“When I started looking at CX, I was very technically oriented,” she said. “I was looking at systems, the way users were interacting with websites, and thinking, ‘Oh, this is how we provide a better user experience.’ ”

Lee defined the communications component as a way of augmenting the online experience as a customer or constituent is going through it and, if necessary, directing someone to another channel, such as phone or chat, in an omnichannel approach. She offered three tactics that agencies can implement to directly interact with their constituents.

No. 1: Offer directional guidance and status updates

“When you are talking about a person moving from place to place, it requires signage,” she said. “Hey, this direction here, this thing next, get ready for this.” Such communications distinguish the best commercial sites, she added.

Agencies should include more generalized communications and outreach to inform constituencies when they have added a new service or overhauled an existing one too, Lee recommended.

“I’m really tripling down on the idea that comms in government is the key to actual CX improvement,” she said.

Communications should remain active throughout the lifecycle of a digital interaction, Lee said, even those that take days, weeks or months to complete.

“How many times have people done something, submitted something or requested something — and you have a radio silence for three months?” she said. In fact, actively communicating by, say, email on the progress or status of an application will help divert people from the call center, which is becoming increasingly expensive to operate.

No. 2: Base your communications on real data

Lee cited applications for benefits from the Veterans Affairs Department as an example. Making sure people know it will take 30 or 60 days will improve a recipient’s sense of confidence in the transaction.

“But if you go 60 days and 24 hours, now you have a problem with this population,” she said. “But had you communicated before that, ‘Hey, we’re experiencing delays. We still have your application. Don’t be anxious, don’t be worried.’ What a difference that make to anyone going through an application process.”

Whether an email, a pop-up balloon online, a call or a letter — what Lee called proactive managing of expectations — makes for better experiences.

Communications can solve the “black hole problem” that customers feel when sending something in for processing and then having zero follow-up interactions while they await the outcome, she said.

Lee added that communications of status or delay information must derive from each individual’s case using real data. These are not fake interactions, she pointed out and cited the reputation damage a pizza delivery chain experienced when people found out its order tracking system wasn’t based on any information but was instead “solely for psychological comfort.”

People appreciate true information, even if doesn’t convey the answer they want, Lee said. That type of communication establishes trust through its honesty.

No. 3: Start your persona building process before any interactions begin

CX improvement programs often focus, correctly, on persona, she said. Personas are depictions of constituents and their requirements in different situations. Data gathering typically starts when people have submitted something. But agencies will learn more if they track activity and build profiles even before a constituent launches an interaction, Lee said.

“There is communication data that happens before,” she said. “Why didn’t they open that email? Why didn’t they click that link? Do they not trust this link? Did you convey enough trust?”

Agencies should not worry that customers will see outbound communications based on pre-transaction activity as creepy, Lee said, noting that Granicus survey data shows the opposite.

“Our data shows that if you are more personalized in government communications, constituents are more likely to take the next desired application action.”

To read or watch other sessions on demand, go to our 2023 CX Exchange event page.

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