We’ve all been there. You need something from your local or state
government agency, so you navigate to their website. But instead of
finding what you need quickly, as you would with many consumer sites,
the site is a mess.
It’s organized by agency department, which you don’t really
understand, or it’s not organized at all, with a hodgepodge of
information all over the place. The search doesn’t really work,
presenting search results that are nowhere near what you’re looking
for. You try another tactic and go to Google to search. This presents
you with pages of mostly outdated links. These links typically send
you deeper into the site, with no context or navigation ability.
When you do find what you’re looking for, it’s a PDF. No
instructions, just a PDF that you need to fill out with your personal
information and then snail-mail back. Oh wait. You also need to fill
out another form and submit it to a different agency, so you need to
enter all that personal data again.
Welcome to the unfortunate status quo. Many government websites were
created over a decade ago and haven’t been modernized much since. They
tend to follow a departmental structure, requiring users to understand
departments and agencies to find what they’re looking for. Site
content is frequently out of date and delivered in a variety of
formats, with no context or clear instructions.
On top of that, most website creation software used in the
government space isn’t flexible enough to enable content creators to
automatically post updates to multiple areas, which means there is
typically only one way to get at certain pieces of information. For
example, tax credit information for seniors, which should be available
on the office of aging page, finance department page, and tax credits
page, may only end up being published on the page of the agency that
produced that information.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There are solutions available that
can enable government agencies to reliably deliver an excellent web
experience for citizens. A service portal is one such solution. It
enables agencies to easily offer services in a logical, structured way
that doesn’t rely on citizens having to know the vagaries of a
government’s departmental hierarchies. Instead, citizens can find what
they are looking for and complete what they are trying to do, quickly
Citizens simply register to use the portal, which gives them an
account they can log into at any time, from anywhere, to get what they
need. They can navigate to the information they are searching for—and
if they get stuck, they can easily find their way out and get back on
track. They can also track the status of all their requests, such as a
license application or pothole report, regardless of the departments,
agencies, or people involved. As a result, government agencies can
provide an experience akin to ecommerce sites, delivering a
consistent, engaging experience that will satisfy constituents.
The service portal augments the traditional web site, providing a
way for government agencies to organize and present services to vastly
improve a citizen’s ability to find and access what they need. It can
also take other valuable information, such as frequently asked
questions (FAQs), building locations, contact information, facility
hours of operation, and trash collection schedules and turn them into
knowledge base articles that make them easy for a citizen to search.
Machine learning tools can then be applied to continuously improve
the relevancy of the results of a visitor’s search to ensure citizens
are able to locate the information they’re looking for, fast. It can
also be applied to more routine requests to the agency’s public
information office, constituent services office, or any public call
center. Using a virtual agent, or chatbot, the site can now help
visitors discover answers.
In this way, government agencies can create self-service
capabilities like those at the core of most consumer experiences. For
citizens, this will go a long way toward boosting customer
satisfaction, while obviating the need to get on the phone with a
civil servant. This “case-deflection” can free up the agency’s time,
allowing staff to innovate instead of just keeping the lights on.
By combining virtual agent or chatbot technology with well-curated
knowledge bases, staff can get back valuable time to focus on their
mission. This is important to enable them to have the time for those
high-touch moments, where a caring employee can make all the
difference in someone’s life.
Look at your department’s or agency’s website
and put yourself in a citizen’s shoes. Try to apply for a service.
Note the search path and obstacles you encounter. Document any
paper-based or telephone-based steps in the process - this is
low-hanging fruit for transforming your citizens’ digital experience.
Now, consider how a top ecommerce site might present the same
information and services you offer. There is your target!
Want to learn more about digital transformation in citizen engagement,
read how Tennessee DHS redefines the customer experience for