Government agencies have faced unprecedented pressure to drive digital transformation at the Federal, State and Local levels. While citizens have become accustomed to an Amazon-like experience in most facets of life, the government has never been known as a fast-moving organization.
At the local level, in particular, the most transactional questions as it relates to permits or city policies can take hours, or even days to receive an answer. While citizens have come to expect delays in the public sector, it doesn’t come without a cost. According to McKinsey’s Digital Public Services report, satisfied residents are nine times more likely to trust the government than those who are not.
And one of the biggest roadblocks to maintaining resident satisfaction is the amount of manual labor involved with handling inbound call volumes and emails on a daily basis. Falling behind the private sector doesn’t just come as a detriment to citizens. It also impacts local governments as they deal with more repetitive tasks while withstanding long days.
It’s no surprise that employees no longer want to put up with a job that doesn’t challenge them mentally and are quitting local government jobs in droves. In fact, a recent survey finds that 52 percent of state and local public sector workers are considering quitting their jobs for different positions or retirement altogether. Without further action, the public sector risks significant staffing shortages and increasing staff burnout.
This post will explain why local governments must embrace digital transformation, and steps for automating current business processes.
Why Digital Transformation Now?
The case for automation has never held more solid footing. Automating inbound inquiries significantly boosts productivity while reducing the administrative burden. This frees up resources to handle other priorities and results in happier residents. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has created a variety of challenges across the country.
Even as citizens return to normalcy, there are a host of other crises bound to disrupt how residents live their lives. The next time, there will be no reason for cities and towns to prepare themselves.
The bottom line is that crisis or not, people expect public services to be as simple to navigate as shopping online. They want information that’s easy to understand, in addition to the ability to take care of any tasks all in one place. For example, in using a single, unified platform, a citizen could renew their car registration, apply for permits to install solar panels, ask questions related to garbage pickup and more all from a single point of contact.
Local governments can provide a seamless user experience by investing in a single communication platform that unifies each public service. Creating this type of consistency will go a long way towards increasing trust in the government.
This type of transformation is easier said than done. Local services are owned by different departments with varying degrees of independence. Yet overcoming these obstacles are a must for any government that cares about increasing citizen satisfaction.
How Chatbots Can Improve Digital Transformation
Carefully deployed enterprise-wide conversational AI chatbots can become the lifeline in delivering exceptional citizen experiences for local governments.
Chatbots enhance and automate customer service and business operations, while communicating to citizens and the community at large.
This enables you to expand access to information, reduce staff workloads, and increase operational efficiency by providing 24/7, on-demand multichannel support. Chatbots can be trained to disseminate information such as locations, costs, and services offered, and can also connect citizens to local resources.
The public sector is faced today with many challenges, issues, and opportunities including the 12 Grand Challenges to Public Administration, several of which can be addressed using chatbots:
- Develop new approaches to public governance and engagement – the modern citizenry seeks methods of civic engagement that are familiar in their everyday life and AI chatbots provide an engagement mechanism that’s an information stream with reliability, ease-of-use and familiarity for citizens.
- Make Government AI Ready – Chatbots are an initial phase of making Government AI-ready and provide the first line of public-facing AI your citizens will experience from the government. They have a holistic approach to accessing your information with speed and cost savings that can only be achieved with AI use while still providing a citizen experience that’s optimal.
- Enhance Voter Participation – utilizing chatbots for providing timely and accurate voter information can readily enhance voter participation. Voters can easily access how, where and when to vote and verify their information through the chatbot.
- Modernize and reinvigorate the public service – Deploying chatbots provide a modernization to the public portals that citizens can utilize with a familiarity that’s proven to drive up engagement and lower the strain on live customer service personnel
- Budget constraints – with so many emergency spending needs over the last couple of years adapting to more cost-effective long-term solutions is becoming a necessity Governments that embrace a chatbot as a key solution are seeing tremendous cost savings. Consumers don’t have a preference whether a chatbot or a human agent helps them, as long as they receive the help they need. Chatbots can create significant cost savings by streamlining customer service for your citizens.
Digital transformation isn’t going away. In fact, it’s opening into other areas of your organization. While implementing a chatbot might seem like an overwhelming task, know that there are a variety of strategies to help you make your implementation successful.
Five steps for introducing chatbots to local government
- Create a list of goals that your chatbot should help you achieve – Come up with a list of metrics such as the number of inbound calls, total time spent on citizen inquiries and any cost savings you receive as a result. Aligning with your staff on how you’ll measure your chatbot implementation will ensure your team is moving forward together.
- Find a solution that can scale over time – No city’s needs stay stagnant over time. Look for a chatbot vendor that allows you to build your bot’s brain as needed or update the content when something new changes. The worst thing that can happen when implementing a chatbot is that your bot and site become inconsistent over time.
- Evangelize the chatbot with your employees – One of the most important parts of implementation is its usage. Prior to deploying the bot, make sure you’ve fully communicated to your team why the bot will make their job easier and how it should be used. Your bot should get you a running start from an effectiveness standpoint, but the majority of its progress will come from increased usage.
- Train employees to provide exceptional customer service – Now that your employees won’t be handling day-to-day mundane inquiries, it is time to double down on customer service. Start coaching your employees to provide more consultative support and give advice when necessary. They will also need to learn how to spot trends and adapt their messaging when new data is revealed.
- Communicate progress and areas of growth – Keep your team engaged by sharing the progress with them and revealing opportunities for improvement. Your staff is naturally going to be more motivated when they know that the bot is making a difference in productivity. Be transparent about the ups and downs of your implementation so your bot can be the best it can be.
Becoming a digital-first government has never been more imperative. Now is the time for the public sector to exceed expectations and become a valuable resource for its citizens. Given the capacity that chatbots provide for growth, now is the time to embrace digital transformation.