The digital transformation journey (Part Three): The drive towards self-service

As the year draws towards its close, Digital by Default News takes a look at some of the trends and issues the public sector is likely to encounter and drive forward in 2017. This third part focuses on self-service and what organisations can do to deliver effective solutions

One of the key digital transformation trends we expect to see in 2017 is the continuing drive towards citizen self-service.

There’s nothing new about this; back in 2015 research by Civica suggested that the majority of local authority executives envisaged a future characterised by widespread self-service options for citizens. That’s unsurprising given the efficiency gains self-service can bring to local government.

Increasingly however, public sector organisations of all sizes are realising that the self-service challenge isn’t just about money saving or reducing demand on hard-pressed staff but is also to do with meeting customer expectations and increasingly how digital automation can have a positive impact on the whole customer experience. It’s this that is the real trend for 2017.

Changing methods of interaction with citizens (and internally for that matter) and altering the way the public uses services isn’t easy and many are looking to the private sector for inspiration. How can a local council provide the same sort of slick and easy user-experience that citizens are used to elsewhere? What can be learned from the customer journey through online retailers, for example?

Remember that, in many ways, the public sector is on the back foot from the get go because citizens are usually accessing services because they have to, not because they want to. Nobody really wants to hand over their car tax or pay for a parking permit!

For many looking at self-service in 2017 the answer will be about the omni-channel experience. To draw on the private sector, public sector organisations will need to offer their consumers the ability to access information where, when and how they choose, on the device of their choice. The power is with the consumer.

Then, whatever channel is chosen, that user will want to have an experience they can adequately perform and complete. That means ease-of-use is crucial, keeping clicks to a minimum and the customer journey as short and as slick as possible. Long-winded, complicated forms just won’t cut it.

 

A good example

Hounslow Council is a good example of an organisation that understands what it needs to deliver. It has invested in a new cloud-based ‘real-time’ case management system that fully supports self-service.

Councillor Ed Mayne, cabinet member for corporate performance and customer care at the council said: “We’re now focused on digital customer service, using a single platform that will enable our customers to transact and use council services digitally in a way they want and when they want. We’re ensuring that we include customers every step of the way with our digital services and are making sure their needs are at the centre of everything we do.

“We needed something scalable and have made the change to something suitable that is deeply embedded in our website and within our customer service contact centre. This is so we can support customers who cannot immediately use the digital self-service channel.”

And finally, 2017 will hopefully be the year when organisations move away from the belief that more is always better. All too often services are falsely future-proofed by just offering every known communication channel available. Too much choice can overcomplicate and confuse – meaning sometimes it’s good to adapt and migrate from old-school ways as new ones are introduced. Phasing out cash payment channels, for example, could work hand-in-hand with digital transformation. It’s certainly a thought!

 

Tell us about your digital journey

As the year begins to draw to a close, we’re thinking about what 2017 will hold for digital transformation in the public sector, and wonder how organisations are adjusting their vision, but we need your help.

Working in partnership with Agilisys, we’re inviting organisations across the country to take part in a short survey to tell us about their vision for digital, the opportunities they see, the challenges they’ve faced, and crucially, how far they’ve come on their journey.

Complete the survey, and as a thank you, we’ll send you an advance copy of the resulting report to be published in the new year. There will also be an opportunity to enter a prize draw to win an iPad mini in time for Christmas. Don’t delay – the survey closes on Friday 16 December.

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