Enabling Public Sector Customer Choice – VoiceSage’s Matthew Weil examines the topic of a recent VoiceSage seminar on channel shift — a concept that is much discussed, but where many feel little action is being taken
Customers like to feel they can choose and this is all part of the attraction of true cross-channel engagement. Choice is about helping people make informed decisions, not herding them down one channel. Unfortunately, the public sector understands how giving users options can empower them, but it doesn’t use its capabilities to exercise it.
This was the key finding of a debate held by VoiceSage with senior UK customer contact practitioners. This included input from a number of public sector organisations, non-profits, education services providers and an outsourced contact centre consultancy.
One organisation, for example, had launched a bells and whistles payment system using visual text messaging and mobile payments. It was insistent that flexibility was the way forward and that by giving customers a range of channels they would eventually start to use the one they like best.
The principles of choice and competition have been pillars in successive governments’ public service reform agenda in a bid to improve efficiencies, quality of service and budgeting. But it appears not to have been carried forward. While central government is looking at cutting down channels to public services to digitally only, forum participants highlighted the fact that the reality in local government especially, is to work with the channels people actually can and want to use.
So what came out as the preferred communication channel? Increasingly it is the mobile phone and notably text messaging. This discloses itself in many ways, but perhaps most markedly the promise to pay outstanding debts is more dependable if carried out in a text conversation with a customer. According to Mobile Marketing Watch, text messaging has a 98 per cent open rate and a 45 per cent response rate, so it is not a communication channel to be ignored.
Channel flexibility is also seen around the response of social media by brands and public sector teams. One practitioner at the forum said that WhatsApp is viewed as very personal, where the public see an organisation’s Facebook page as a legitimate way to communicate.
The fairycake dilemma
The forum agreed that much of the UK public sector CX work being carried out on social media concerns ‘comments, compliments and complaints’. Channel shift in this context is again about spread. Practitioners say that their current use of social media centres on directing important discussions down more controllable channels as soon as appropriate.
There’s also the big issue of identification. Who really is user ‘fairycake2,’ what are their issues and how can they be best and most effectively dealt with? Another big concern is social media monitoring. While some organisations only engage with social media during office hours, many social housing organisations, for example, believe it should be 24/7 to deal with any emergencies that may arise.
Social media continues to be utilised and monitored by public sector CX teams, but the key take away from the discussion is the need to engage with citizens in the broadest way possible in order to make Citizen Relationship Management (CRM) a reality.
The key drivers are a need to provide citizens with channel flexibility and choice in order to improve service delivery, while at the same time cutting back on expensive calls into contact centers. The forum agreed that the more this goal can be achieved, the happier the organisation and the citizen will be.
Matthew Weil is Product Manager at VoiceSage
VoiceSage delivers proactive customer engagement solutions that help companies streamline and add value to their high-volume, outbound contact activities. Its blue chip customers include Argos (Home Retail Group), Capital One, Thames Water, AXA Insurance and Shop Direct.
These and other customers rely on VoiceSage technology to help them transform credit collections, delivery and appointment confirmations, amplify marketing campaigns and support other high-volume business processes in immediate and cost-effective ways, lowering costs and improving the customer experience.
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