Connecting state and local government leaders
COMMENTARY | Customizing user experience into the languages that most represent a community’s needs creates more equitable access to important government services.
Most of us move through interactions with state and local government—like paying property taxes, renewing driver’s licenses and participating in elections—without giving much thought to our ability to access and understand the information we need. For residents with low English proficiency (LEP), though, navigating these same steps might be challenging if information is only provided in English.
While no one likes to wait in line, imagine how frustrated residents would be if, after standing in line, they finally reach the counter and discover a language barrier keeps them from communicating their needs.
A virtual queue solution that offers an interface in local spoken languages can solve most of these issues by removing customer language barriers, minimizing lines and boosting efficiency. Agencies can also improve customer experience and potentially increase civic engagement, too.
How virtual queue management works
Physical queues involve standing in line. A virtual queue allows individuals to check in either at the location or remotely. Residents aren’t even required to be present while they wait.
During the check-in process for a virtual queue, individuals are led through a series of questions about the services they require. At local and state government offices, that could be paying their water bill, renting a picnic space at a park or collecting supplies available from social safety net programs.
The software alerts the appropriate department and its staff about what residents need at the same time it gives individuals an estimated time they should arrive for service. This way, workers can be prepared before anyone is standing in front of them, and they can more quickly complete transactions so residents don’t have to plan their entire day around a single errand.
While they wait for their service time, customers receive updates via text message or email about their place in line, so they better manage how they spend their day.
Why language access is so important
A 2015 U.S. Census Bureau report found that at least 350 different languages are spoken in the United States. The U.S. has the second-largest population of Spanish speakers alone, with one in three people in the U.S. predicted to speak Spanish by 2050.
Implementing a virtual queue management system is a great first step in improving overall service for constituents. The next step is making sure the software interface can be customized for accurate translation into languages spoken in the community.
Not only does this ensure the check-in process is completed correctly to route individuals to the appropriate department, but it also places them in front of an employee who speaks their language or lets staff know ahead of time that a translator is needed. If a translator is not available at the time of service—either in person or via telephone—the department can schedule an appointment for the resident that coincides with interpreter availability. The benefits here are twofold: Residents can confidently and efficiently conduct their business, and workers feel empowered and productive even when customer traffic is heavy.
As soon as they check in using the queue management software, residents are entered into the agency system, making it easier to communicate with them about important updates related to their visit.
Helping residents find their way
Language access through a virtual queuing system is important, but agencies can’t forget about the need for inclusive signage on-site as well. When constituents arrive for service, directing them to the right office in a language they recognize and understand is just another component of queue management.
A queue management interface can help agencies translate words and terminology LEP residents might use for certain services to create directional signs once they arrive at the government office. This way, residents don’t waste time going to the wrong department, and staff members stay focused on helping the customers in front of them and preparing for the ones yet to arrive.
Virtual queue management systems create efficiencies in local and state government offices for both constituents and staff. Customizing user experience into the languages that most represent a community’s needs creates more equitable access to important government services for LEP residents.
Steve Covate is vice president of sales at Qtrac by Lavi Industries.