Using Analytics Helps State and Local Government Websites Look and Feel More Commercial

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Connecting state and local government leaders

Effective public engagement is crucial to reducing citizen call volumes.

State and local governments looking to deal with the often overwhelming call volume from citizens can learn from the private sector how to use analytics to improve public engagement.

Tight budgets mean agencies and departments often need residents to do more online for themselves, but if people can’t find a service quickly they’ll pick up their phone because it’s convenient.

The problem is that most jurisdictions don’t know what their websites should look like, said David Moody, government and public sector vice president and global practice leader at Verint Enterprise Intelligence Solutions.

“I ask developers, ‘Why is it when you go online you’ll use search engines, but when you put [a search box] on your website you make it so complicated?’” Moody said. “You, yourself, don’t even do it that way.”

Online retailer sites like Amazon have search functions that deliver a list of things the user might be looking for before he or she hits return and suggest products based on previous purchases.

Many government websites lack a search feature, make it hard to locate or it’s just plain bad. Homepages are frequently a jumble of information as various departments vie for space, Moody said.

Instead, governments should be pushing information and services at citizens the way Amazon does.

“Analytics see what people are searching and the top things, placing more emphasis on those key areas,” Moody said. “That will change, and you need to be able to analyze that on an ongoing basis.”

Speech analytics pinpoint all calls to a department where the caller couldn’t find a service so that data can be used to fix a government website. Web survey feedback can be interpreted with text analytics to improve government’s “customer service” experience.

In Texas, Houston 311 is the result of the nation’s fourth-largest city building an open data portal and visualizing it with analytics to deter citizens with concerns from bogging agencies down with phone calls.

“If a citizen wants to report a pothole, they can go on the map and see if and when it was reported,” Moody said. “If they can see stuff is being done, they don’t have to raise [the issue] again.”

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty. (Photo by ymgerman /

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