how omnichannel felt on the skinEvery once in a while I am reminded that customer care is not just something that saves a company money, builds a brand, or produces an unquantifiable warm and fuzzy feeling. Especially when it comes to government customer experience (CX), efficient customer care can have a significant impact on the quality of life.

Recent USA Today headlines bring it to the fore: a Veterans Administration suicide hotline reportedly has such a volume of calls that many go to backup crisis call centers, where the callers are left to wait on hold for an undetermined number of minutes and nearly every sixth call goes to voicemail, according to an inspector general investigation. Reportedly, the number of calls going to backup crisis centers has more than doubled—from 36,000 in 2013 to 76,000 in 2014. “Calls routed to the backup centers can be placed in a queue where they hear music for several minutes while they wait. The VA had no process for learning how long these people wait or how many of them finally hang up,” the report said. Also, some staff at the backup crisis centers were unaware that there even was a voicemail system.

Imagine instead a system of engagement that could scale in the cloud, route calls to agents based on their understanding of the history of the caller, or schedule callbacks for non-urgent calls. Consider the impact of system able to deliver a true omnichannel view, including a full history of the veteran to anyone who receives the call.  It might alert them to the fact that the veteran has called in several times before, and escalate the call to the right agent in the first place.  Another factor is workforce planning capabilities to match resources to demand, with automated notification to alert management when call volume exceeds capacity.

Charitable Listing in the UK
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), a charity working in child protection in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and the Channel Islands, recently decided to adopt an omnichannel approach to their hotlines which operate for children, adults who want to report a concern about a child, and adults seeking help for themselves. Without it, imagine the delay in providing assistance when an adult’s concern in one interaction is not visible when a child calls in another interaction.

Saving Lives in the Heat
Avondale, Arizona is not a place where you want your electricity shut off—temperatures reach 110°F and higher in the summer. So citizens trying to get family assistance or stave off a utility disconnect need rapid responses and innovative solutions. The city implemented a Family Assistance Registration inbound IVR solution that prioritizes and manages constituent call loads. The outbound IVR solution not only alerts citizens to the potential of the utility disconnect, but also allows callers to make immediate payments or set up payment plans. As a result, utility disconnections were cut by 50%. Rob Lloyd, CIO of Avondale who has led the city to first-place wins in the Digital Cities Survey in both 2013 and 2014, spoke with us at length on citizen-focused technology during a recent webinar with Government Technology Magazine.

Keeping the Elderly in Touch
“We have many elderly and disabled customers,” says Ritta Karvinen, director of Palmia, a government agency in Helsinki, Finland that provides catering, property maintenance, cleaning, security, and wellness services. “They can feel lonely and isolated. Sometimes their only regular contact is hearing our agent’s friendly voice.” Advancements through Genesys solutions now mean that 95% of calls to one 24/7 service are answered within 30 seconds. And while the phone is still very popular, citizens can now use email or text for services such as booking transportation to medical appointments. Their healthcare team benefits from the use of callback features. Moving routine activities on to other channels has freed up the phones so that agents can handle urgent inquiries like incoming calls from homes with emergency nurse-call systems.

For more examples of great government in action, please download, Four Considerations in Building a Citizen-Centric Government.