Written by: Joel Cherkis
Consumer-grade, high-tech services are a growing part of the civic experience
From a customer service perspective, if your government were compared to a private sector company, what would it be?
While companies like Zappos, Amazon, or Mint.com may not be on your short list, that won’t be the case for long. Across government, organizations are transforming how they deliver services and support to their constituents, and are taking on a much more tech-savvy and consumer-friendly mindset. Sooner than you think, the experience of applying for a permit or reporting an issue to a government authority will look and feel a lot more like a typical online shopping experience. There are two main forces driving this change:
The first is that expectations for on-demand products and services in the consumer world are spilling over into other sectors, including government. Commonly referred to as the “consumerization of IT” in government, this consumerization effect is putting pressure on organizations to not only adapt to new expectations from workers (such as supporting telework), but also to deliver enhanced, on-demand services to citizens on their terms, whether that’s online, or on a variety of other devices. Requiring people wait in line at a local government office is an increasingly rare practice, and will likely be phased out entirely in our lifetime.
The second catalyst is the proliferation of smart devices, both in the government workplace and in the constituent community. The reality is that many people no longer use just one device as part of their daily lives. Consider a statistic from a recent survey from iPass, which found that mobile workers now carry an average of 3.5 devices. Whether to access information and services, conduct business, or simply be entertained, people now rely on many devices to “get what they need” and they want the same experience—without restrictions—no matter what device they are using. In response to this trend, governments increasingly have to support personal devices in the workplace, as well as become more flexible with the platforms they use to deliver citizen services.
That’s not to say that there haven’t been growing pains. A recent survey by Forrester found that more than half of federal information workers use their personal smartphones at work, even though their agencies haven’t developed policies to support the devices yet. And, in an effort to become more service-oriented, government organizations are having to overcome challenges such as legacy systems and disconnected applications that lack the power or flexibility to deliver a truly consumer-friendly experience. But where gaps may exist, there are also many stories that demonstrate what’s possible as governments increasingly embrace a consumer-oriented mindset. For example:
- The city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, despite its strong track record of delivering citizen services, came to a consensus that things could be done better, faster, and smarter. In an effort to modernize its citizen services and to consolidate legacy systems that had been developed over the years to support them, the city embarked on an initiative to develop a modern citizen services platform (CSP) with Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Today, residents can use the city’s website to create geo-tagged reports on any number of nuisance complaints in the city, such as fixing potholes. Data from resident reports can be used to generate notifications, create work orders, and dispatch responders, depending on the type of service requested. In the near-term, the city also envisions extending its new CSP system to support advanced reporting from mobile devices.
- The California Department of Financial Institutions, faced with a growing number of consumer complaints directed at financial institutions in the wake of the global economic crisis, needed a solution to process citizen requests faster and to improve case-tracking and recordkeeping. The solution was to implement an automated, online public record-tracking system run in a cloud-based instance of Dynamics CRM. The new online system has enabled the Department to improve response times by 66 percent, with the ability for consumers to track the status of existing complaints or issues on the Web.
While these are just two examples, they are part of a much larger movement taking place in government, as more organizations embrace consumer-centric services and technologies that rival the best in the consumer world. It’s an exciting time to be in government, and to be at the forefront of this trend, which will largely define the civic experience for generations to come. To learn more about other governments that are making the move toward dynamic, consumer-centric services, I encourage you to visit our Microsoft Dynamics website.
Post originally written for Forbes.com: http://www.forbes.com/sites/microsoftdynamics/2013/01/30/not-your-fathers-government/