Imagine that you’ve injured yourself and first responders are taking care of you. Suddenly, in the middle of bandaging your wounds, the paramedic stops and grabs her cell phone.
“Do you have to do that now?” you plead.
“Sorry. But it’s almost five o’ clock, and if I don’t talk to the health department today, they’re not going to renew my license,” she explains.
This, of course, is an extreme example. But the simple truth is that many jobs make it challenging to make phone calls or send emails during the day—not to mention spend hours waiting in line at the DMV or some other government office.
Limited Access Isn’t Enough
Thanks to widely available technologies, consumers today can buy goods and services, find information, and view content any time they want. And since consumers are also citizens, they’ve come to expect that same level of convenience from their governments. In fact, 88% of citizens surveyed by the Center for Digital Governance find online government services easy to use.
But while many state and local governments provide information and forms online, most key services and employees are still only available during “normal” business hours. Fortunately, offering around-the-clock government customer service provides significant benefits. From simple to sophisticated, there are numerous ways to expand hours, access, and responsiveness to citizen needs.
Modern IVR Systems
Though simple (and often annoying) prompts, classic IVRs help callers navigate through menus, but offer limited functionality, or self-service options. A sophisticated IVR solution, on the other hand, delivers precise, detailed status updates and other types of information that are personalized, based on the caller’s phone number. This allows citizens to self-service and requires fewer calls be handled by government employees. Modern IVRs can also make it easy for customers to pay bills by phone. In fact, one city in Arizona decreased utility disconnections by nearly half using this approach.
Studies show that 15% of callers will hang up after waiting on hold for 40 seconds. Even more hang up after one minute. People don’t have time to wait on hold—that paramedic who’s patching you up can’t afford to, and neither can those who are seeking vital government services.
Scheduled callbacks address this by allowing citizens to specify a time when an available employee will return their call. This is particularly important when so many—especially those needing government assistance—have jobs that don’t allow them to spontaneously use their phones or wait on hold.
A 24/7 government can proactively alert citizens to overdue payments, license renewal deadlines, emergencies, and more, using SMS, social media, email, or automated phone calls. Proactive communications engage citizens and increase compliance and revenue. Plus, they increase efficiency by diverting demand away from resource-intensive options, such as in-person appointments or phone calls.
Virtualized Contact Centers
By using local and telecommuting employees as well as workers situated halfway around the world, a virtualized contact center provides significant advantages. First, by pooling local and remote resources, governments can easily offer a click-to-chat option to citizens, regardless of the time of day. Representatives are able to assist people in completing important processes or simply help them find the information they need.
Second, if disaster strikes, a virtual contact center offers the ability to instantly transfer work from physical offices that are impaired or inoperable to an unaffected area, which can ensure uninterrupted delivery of critical government services. And a cloud-based contact center can scale rapidly to meet the sudden demand from citizens after a disaster such as flood or hurricane. Pooling resources and workforces across geographic areas, especially in the cloud, delivers lower operating expenses, with no capex.
Allowing people to interact with governments on their schedule improves the overall customer experience, increases citizen engagement, and improves department efficiency. For more benefits of expanding access to and improving the availability of government services, read our white paper “Four Considerations in Building a Citizen-Centric Government.”