How technology is putting the ‘public’ first in public service

Nick Wingrove, VP solutions consulting, EMEA at Genesys, on how the public sector can address its technical debt and improve the citizen experience.

Posted 13 October 2022 by Christine Horton

As it stands, the public sector is behind in its digital transformation journey when compared to the private sector. In fact, 37% of those working in the sector report that their digital experience is behind citizen expectations. While hesitancy to adopt technology and inadequate funding has prevented the sector from moving forwards, the sheer scale of projects and integrating legacy systems has also slowed any meaningful progress. At the same time, the failure of a handful of high-profile digital initiatives has added to this reluctancy to adopt new technology.

Despite these challenges, demands for technology from citizens are higher than ever. People are used to accessing digital services from consumer brands in the click of an app and now expect the same level of service in their interactions with the public sector. Whether that’s organising a replacement bin or applying for a council tax rebate – citizens want the ability to conveniently access services on-demand without the need to speak to someone.

As the primary sector supports citizens with personal needs, from housing to healthcare, public sector organisations are under more pressure to provide the same, if not better, experiences. At the same time, with the cost-of-living crisis putting additional strain on citizens, with one million reportedly at risk of facing poverty this winter as a result, support is needed more than ever. It is essential public sector organisations show they care and build trust amongst the communities they serve, which can only happen when technical debt is addressed and the right technology is in place to prioritise, listen and respond to citizen needs with empathy.

Out with the old

Research has shown that almost half of public sector decision-makers believe they need further investment to provide a platform to deliver digital services in the future, demonstrating an increasing need for transformation to improve the way it serves citizens. At the same time, the need for this transformation is further being recognised as the government announces its new digital strategy, which sets out to improve public services as part of its ‘levelling up’ agenda.

Currently, a large majority of the public sector relies on legacy systems, which create barriers that prevent organisations fully realising and understanding the citizen journey. This means they lack the data that allows them to understand when, where and why a citizen got in touch. Not only does this cause frustration for advisors trying to provide the most appropriate and timely solutions and advice, but it also creates inefficiency in the way different departments work with one another.

To overcome the technical debt the public sector currently suffers, organisations need modern technology that will allow them to seamlessly deploy capabilities and link together different touchpoints across the citizen journey. Through this, agents can track citizen interactions, better understand their needs, concerns, recommend next steps and predict future problems that might arise.

Moving forwards with cloud

If the public sector is to keep up with citizens and drive efficiency, transformation is needed. In the first instant, this starts with cloud technology. As it stands, many organisations in the space are operating with siloed, on-premise technology, which causes implementations to be slow and cumbersome as more steps are needed for solutions to go live.

With cloud technology, capabilities can be rolled out almost instantly, allowing public sector organisations to respond to changing demands much more efficiently. These services can then be scaled in line with this, ensuring the maximum support is given where it’s needed most, and citizen issues are responded to and resolved swiftly. And, in tough economic times, SaaS solutions let governments better manage costs by only paying for the licences they use.  

Equally important to ensuring citizen’s issues can be quickly resolved is providing advisors the setup to do this. Cloud technology ensures agents can easily give citizens support, whether that’s from home or from a contact centre. Pandemic working practices are set to stay and a recent report from MIT Technology Review Insights, showed that fully remote working for contact centre employees is expected to grow to 40% by 2024 with a further 23% in a hybrid model. Giving public sector employees this flexibility – like individuals get in the private sector – is not only key to retaining staff, but means agents are engaged in what they do and therefore able to provide citizens the best service possible.

Once a cloud base has been established, organisations can enable omnichannel experiences by providing a variety of ways for citizens to reach out for support, whether that be via social media or webchat. This is particularly important as citizens want to know that public sector organisations care about their needs, and more so than the private sector. At the centre of this is giving them the means to get in touch when and where an issue arises in a way that is personal to them.

A holistic view of the citizen journey

While having cloud technology and a variety of channels available is an essential element in optimising citizen experiences, public sector organisations need the ability to link all the points at which citizens engage with them together if they are to truly understand and respond to needs with meaningful solutions.

Implementing customer journey analytics capabilities, data across citizen touchpoints can be brought together and visualised. Public sector advisors can then have a complete overview of the citizen journey, from the point at which they reach out, to the end when their case has been resolved. Through this, they can not only look back historically on each interaction and better identify where journeys could be streamlined and solutions provided faster, but also be ‘tuned’ in real time too.

When citizens behaviours and preferences are mapped and understood, advisors can begin to anticipate and predict where and when they might reach out in future. As such, they can proactively provide solutions before an issue may even arise. Then, public sector organisations can really begin to respond to needs with empathy by truly understanding citizens issues and giving them experiences personalised to their needs.

Putting citizens at the heart of transformation

With the public sector dealing with peoples most private and personal issues, citizens expect to be met with care and understanding when they reach out for support. This means providing them with experiences that are seamless and personalised, and deliver timely and meaningful solutions. Key to doing so is by addressing the technical debt that exists within the public sector, which currently prevents the experiences citizens expect and deserve from being delivered.

At a very basic level, cloud technology is needed to allow public sector organisations to easily implement and scale services and channels in line with demand. Through this, citizens can be responded to faster, in a way a that is suited to them. The next stage is introducing customer journey analytics, which helps to bring this all together. With the insights provided, public sector advisors can begin to truly understand citizen issues and consequently, recommend the solutions they need. With these tools in hand, technical debt can be left in the past and experiences that establish trust can be built for the future.

Nick Wingrove is VP solutions consulting, EMEA at Genesys.