By Patrick Nash
Plans to reduce the need for face-to-face government services by improving “confusing” online offerings in the UK have been announced.
The Government Digital Strategy Report acknowledges that most people “rarely” use online government services. So services are to be completely overhauled in a bid to improve and streamline service delivery.
It is estimated that more than 1.5 billion Government transactions – anything involving “sharing information, requesting services, buying goods, asking for permission, or paying money” – are made by the public every year. The majority are done either face-to-face or over the telephone. In 2011, more than 150 million phone calls were classed as “avoidable” and “costly for government”.
The business case for improving digital service delivery of public services is clear.
Indeed, the government is in a fortunate position to be able to correct past mistakes in website specification and design by spending several millions revamping its websites. Of course, many charities and third sector organisations don’t have that luxury.
Here at Connect Assist, we have vast experience of designing and managing digital service delivery for organisations in the third sector. We have played a pivotal role in helping modernise service delivery for many organisations using the internet.
Here we take a look at some of the fundamental mistakes made in designing the delivery of government services online, present ideas for avoiding such errors, and give our top tips for improving digital service delivery.
1. Research, research, research
The government spent £105million over three years on the site www.businesslink.gov.uk, and spent a large sum of the money on technology before actually finding out what business users wanted from the site. This site now features on the Government Digital Service’s ‘Wall of Shame’. The lesson? Engage with your target users. Set up interviews and focus groups to find out exactly what services they may be looking for. But don’t be afraid to be visionary. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPod by asking music fans what they wanted – he had a vision and was one step ahead of what consumers would one day be prepared to pay for. Combine robust research with a clear vision of how your digital services could help users, and you’ll be on the path to success.
2. Allow for self-help
Once you have a clear idea of what target users expect of your service, set up a site that allows them to easily access any information they may require. Ease of navigation is crucial. It doesn’t matter how flashy your site looks if it doesn’t make it as easy as possible for users to find potential solutions. And remember that support comes in many shapes and sizes, therefore so should your web provision. Sites should allow users to gather information, complete self-assessments or perform live chat with operators – or a mixture of all of these. Intelligent back-office technology can direct users to the appropriate service, assess and flag up potentially risky cases to your human operatives and speed up response rates to those who most need it most.
3. Maximise your app-eal
Ensure that your service is as accessible as possible across all platforms, including mobile phones and tablets. One in five support contact centres are already managing smartphone applications, according to new research (linkto: Dimension Data’s Contact Centre Benchmarketing Report 2012). This helps ensure assistance is available to users wherever they are online. Software such as Oracle RightNow’s Mobile Cloud Service helps create an exceptional mobile web experience solution regardless of device or browser. This helps charities to deliver relevant, consistent answers, ensuring user satisfaction – and loyalty – by providing support over mobile apps and the mobile web.
4. Test and review
No system is ever perfect and technology is constantly developing and evolving. Plan to consistently test and review the services you offer, to ensure that your digital service delivery continues to meet the needs and expectations of your users.