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Better customer experience is key to improving trust in government, which is especially critical during times of change, according to a new report.
State and local governments that use technology to improve transparency and customer experience (CX) build greater trust with their citizens, according to a new report from Salesforce.
Just 16% of those surveyed believe that governments have successfully used technology to improve and digitize CX, while 47% said government employees lack the tools to effectively serve the public, the company found.
And those surveyed, which included respondents aged 18 or older from North America, Latin America, Europe and the Asia Pacific regions, said governments have a long way to go. Less than 30% said they believed they were made to feel valued in their interactions with local and national governments, that the government cared about CX or that it responded effectively to their changing needs.
Nasi Jazayeri, executive vice president and general manager of Salesforce’s public sector arm, said the numbers show there is plenty of “headroom” for governments to better use technology to improve CX and build trust. Eighty-seven percent said trust in government becomes more important during times of change.
“In every personal interaction, in every business interaction, trust is at the heart of that partnership,” he said. “It's super important to make sure that if you are interacting with another person, another business. If the trust is not there, it's going to be very hard, and it's just not going to work.”
To build greater trust with residents, Jazayeri said governments should boost communications with those who interact with their services, not only providing status updates on applications for programs like unemployment insurance, but also offering better explanations about why awarded benefits or other assistance may be less than recipients thought they would receive.
That communications gap was especially apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, when state and local governments were responsible for administering federal relief programs as well as their own. Jazayeri cited as an example the federal Small Business Administration, which would deny applications for business relief loans and grants but not explain its reasoning behind decisions.
When implementing better CX in a bid to grow resident trust, Jazayeri said governments should look to emulate Gartner’s “Total Experience” strategy, which weaves together the experiences of customers, employees and users by using technology and breaking down the silos between those different experiences.
That requires agencies to quickly set up new systems capable of integrating with existing systems, while keeping an eye on limited budgets, compliance requirements and finding employees that have the necessary skills.
Automation could also play a role as governments search for more efficient services delivery.
Even after the pandemic, it’s essential “to bring automation and efficiency into government,” Jazayeri said. “Now with inflation, resources are constrained, budgets are constrained. We need to bring efficiency through automation, through no-code or low-code platforms, into government. But as much as we do that, you still will have some human interface.”
Instead of taking a “rip and replace” approach that would require quickly revamping a whole system and risk chaos if done incorrectly, Jazayeri recommended a more incremental approach where parts of a system are sequentially upgraded and integrated with existing components.
That approach is best illustrated by a government program like child welfare, which typically relies on a case management system as well as benefits management, claims management and care management modules. Under this incremental approach, one of those four components could be replaced and upgraded, then integrated with the other three to prevent a major service disruption.
“We have seen this best practice, where agencies are super intentional” when it comes to digital transformation, Jazayeri said. “Pick a module, start there, make sure it's fully integrated, that its working,” he said. After reaping “the benefits from that, move to the next one, and move to the next one.’”