Small to mid-sized municipal guide to digital government and citizen satisfaction

In small municipalities we hear a lot about digital government and citizen experiences. We often think this is a question whose answer is just to buy the latest software and hardware.

A  recent study done by PWC has  once again re-enforced the principle that digital service channels improve the overall satisfaction of citizens. I don’t think that is surprising to most of us. However, before we all run out and start spending thousands of dollars building state-of-the-art citizen applications, e-commerce solutions or internal databases with portals for citizens, we should first ensure we understand why citizens are more satisfied when they have access to digital service channels. To do that we need to understand the specific problems faced by citizens that lead to a sense of dissatisfaction. Is citizen facing technology sufficient to address their issues?

The studies of citizens (customers) indicate satisfaction is a product of actions that are evaluated on an emotional level.

Here is a brief summary of emotional needs that affect citizen satisfaction.

  1. Empowerment – The citizen needs to feel that every part of an interaction is centered on them (customer-centric services). This speaks to our ability to provide fast/timely services, setting realistic expectations and providing a defined structure that any interaction will follow to ensure a timely and appropriate outcome.
  2. Personalization–  Citizen’s should not perceive that they are being provided a “one-size-fits-all” approach to their interaction. Any process needs to adapt to the individual and their specific circumstances. This is achieved by providing different resolution paths, empowering staff to solve simple issues on their own (one and done) and providing choices which can make the system feel more tailored. The result is a citizen who feels valued as an individual.
  3. Multi-channel experience– Citizens want to engage with any staff or any department using the method of communication they desire regardless of the request. By funneling all inputs into a centralized system (one that all staff can see) via multichannel options (phone, voice mail, walk in email and web) staff and departments can ensure there are “no wrong doors” when it comes to logging or looking for solutions. This way you remove the need for the citizen to navigate your organization to get help.
  4. Transparency– We often talk about transparency in government with regard to visibility into how tax dollars are (or will be) spent. However, for citizens, transparency must also include access to information on their specific issues, timely updates on activities that impact their individual concerns, a clear and consistent understanding of the processes and policies that apply, and being able to obtain the information they desire without needing to make a complicated request.

Citizens of smaller municipalities have the same service expectations that are available to those living in larger cities.  With the right set of tools and best practices, this can often be achieved with a budget and staffing levels consistent with smaller organizational resources.  By keeping things simple and focusing on the unique needs of your citizens, delivering on high service levels does not need to cost a lot.