According to the U.S. Congress, it’s high time that government agencies start caring more about the experiences of individuals who interact with them online. Whether it’s a veteran looking for benefits, a small business owner trying to access resources, or a traveler applying for a passport, citizens and other users of official U.S. websites should have functional and even satisfying experiences.
This digital customer experience (CX) in government is only a piece of a larger context known as the “citizen journey”—the entirety of the experiences that individuals have when interacting with government agencies and services, both online and in-person. It’s the governmental equivalent to the “consumer journey,” which is a topic of much interest in the private sector.
Accordingly, private sector best practices—including using the right tech tools for the job—will help government agencies enact the priorities mandated by Congress.
Laws for a Better Citizen Journey
Congress recognizes that improving digital infrastructure is essential for creating a better citizen journey. The 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (21st Century IDEA) that Congress passed in December 2018 sets out specific regulations for overhauling the CX of executive agency digital properties, including modernizing digital document handling.
The citizen journey is the experience of those seeking government services across multiple interactions while completing a multistage process such as applying for federal student aid, filing taxes, or transitioning from military active duty. Congressional interest in the citizen journey is spurred by increasing public demand that government services better match the customer-centric focus of the private sector.
A positive citizen journey is one where individuals can complete these tasks smoothly and without unnecessary frustration or delay. It’s also one in which individuals can depend on government agencies to provide appropriate and useful information and make it clear how to complete the steps required to access a given service.
While the 21st Century IDEA’s focus is explicitly digital, its directives will result in profound changes in the citizen journey as a whole, leading executive agencies to rethink how they’re approaching customer interface. Federal websites must become more standardized and informative, better-functioning, and equipped with interactive tools that can enable users to do business with government entities remotely.
For federal agencies without a highly developed sense of customer care, actualizing this vision can seem like a daunting task. But there’s an excellent blueprint at hand: Applying private sector best practices for shaping the consumer journey will help agencies create a more compelling citizen journey.
Best Practices for the Consumer Journey
The consumer journey is increasingly driven by the needs of the consumer instead of by the prerogatives of the supplier. For private companies that means analyzing data about their customers’ priorities and behaviors, and using that to create compelling messaging and attractive sites and content that will draw customers in.
A study by McKinsey found that two-thirds of the interactions customers have with companies while deciding who to buy from involve marketing activities prompted by the consumer, such as engaging in word-of-mouth recommendations, seeking out a company’s social feeds and reading reviews of the company’s products.
“In today’s decision journey, consumer-driven marketing is increasingly important as customers seize control of the process and actively ‘pull’ information helpful to them,” write the study’s authors.
This customer-driven journey comes with specific best practices companies can prioritize:
- Develop properties that attract consumers, like websites about specific products or programs.
- Track the salient customer data on a custom dashboard to hone in on the most applicable information.
- Use advanced analytics tools that measure and predict customer behavior to gain a comprehensive understanding of the audience.
- Use a content management system (CMS) to target messages to customers in a way that’s appropriate for their particular context.
Even though government agencies aren’t courting customers per se, they benefit from better engagement from those they serve. And while every private sector best practice does not translate well to noncompetitive government services, many will help push the citizen journey in the right direction.
Digital Management for the Citizen Journey
The differences between private sector and public sector are substantial enough that while many of the best practices can apply, the digital tools created for private-sector consumer-journey management may not fit government agencies well. Luckily, next-generation digital tools are coming online to help streamline the process for government actors.
Brightspot for Government, a CMS purpose-built for government, makes it easy to create an engaging and satisfying citizen journey.