Monthly Archives: October 2016

Bringing Government Agency Contact Centers and the Internet Together for a Seamless Customer Experience

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Taxpayers often turn to the government when they are overwhelmed and stressed out by personal circumstances. A fragmented experience across government websites compounds their distress both increasing the burden on call center staff and the cost of meeting taxpayers needs. A consistent, thoughtfully designed experience (starting with websites and contact centers) will make a tremendous difference in the lives of taxpayers and government employees.

The government agency will better serve all stakeholders by establishing a focus to oversee the design and implementation of a human-centered design centric strategy that:

  • identifies and responds to key touchpoints in a stakeholder’s journey
  • streamlines, integrates, and scales websites and call centers consistently over time
  • takes a holistic, iterative approach to prioritizing improvements across channels
  • maintains a mobile experience first philosophy (people seeking information often
  • use mobile devices first because they want information immediately, or rely on mobile exclusively because it is what they can afford)
  • uses clear, concise, and consistent language and messaging across all channels
  • establishes a feeling of trust by providing consistent experiences across channels to different stakeholders firmly focuses on the future by laying the groundwork to
  • integrate social media and emerging technologies in later phases of the project

Leading a human-centered design change initiative requires vision and broad oversight to bring stakeholders, products, technical processes, and communication into alignment.

Picture Jane, a retiree who needs help. She goes to one website on her phone to get information fast, but it doesn’t help. Later she visits another site on her laptop and can see it better, but finds additional information, organized in a new way, and described with different language.

Jane doesn’t know what to do or trust, so she tries a call center looking for a person to talk to instead. The wait times are long because so many others are having the same problems. When she finally gets through, the call center staff wants to help but they talk about services and options in yet another way.

Jane is distressed by her experience across siloed channels. She encounters disconnected technologies, has to translate between different language use, and finds that information is inconsistently organized or even offered — leaving her frustrated and miserable. The call center staff who takes her call can hear that misery as it overflows into their conversation making the staffer’s job harder, the call longer, and both the financial and emotional costs higher for both.

Each time Jane’s journey plays out for another taxpayer or call center staffer, taxpayers lose confidence in the government agency and increase the costs of call center operations.

A single focus and oversight for government Contact Centers and the internet presence is a logical first step towards an improved Customer experience. Needed research must be conducted across channels and changes prioritized coherently across all platforms to maximize results. If the system is not treated as a whole, customer experience will continue to be fragmented and frustrating no matter how many isolated improvements are made over time.

A seamless experience requires a consistent approach to technological solutions, human needs, and organizational responses. The goal is to inspire taxpayer confidence and government efficiency by making it easy to start with a website, reach out to a call center if needed, and then complete tasks on the web when they are ready. In the future, integrating social media will increase responsiveness and better serve millennials and future generations.

A robust online database of Frequently Asked Questions can enhance customer experience based on insights from web analytics and call center topics. Web analytics and the call center knowledge management technology can be used to identify frequently accessed data, searches that come up empty, and how often users access particular information. In depth interviews with call center personnel can shape resource allocation and better prepare them to address complex situations since the basics are covered in a searchable database.

Starting with aggregated website and call center data creates a solid foundation for human-centered research to address persistent pain points across channels then effectively design and deliver satisfying stakeholder experiences.

What if Jane went to a central website and found the basic information she needed quickly and easily? If she still wasn’t sure what to do in her situation, she could reach out to a call center. When she did, her wait time would be shorter since more people were finding what they needed on a streamlined easily searchable site that highlights frequently asked questions. Jane wouldn’t be so upset when she connected with a staff member, her questions could be answered more quickly, costs would go down, and Jane would regain confidence in the government agency. Later when it worked for her schedule, she could fill out any required forms on the website and get immediate confirmation that they were submitted. Now when Jane talks about the government agency she shares her experience — I get help when I need it, I get things done on my schedule, and I trust that the government agency has my back.

Integrating processes, products, services, and content in an organization like a government agency takes time, vision, and leadership. Consolidating oversight with the right vision offers the best possible chance to successfully transition the taxpayers to a coherent seamless experience.

Using Human-Centered Design (HCD) Approach to Improve Your Government Contact Center’s Experience

Every interaction the taxpayer has with the government is a touch point that shapes their impression on the quality of service received based on a positive or negative experience. The contact centers for government are an integrated platform that provides taxpayers and their family members with accurate information about services and information that can provide taxpayers with their desired requests. Rather than government leaders improving solutions that seem accurate to taxpayers, there has been a commitment to creating ideas that better meet taxpayer’s needs by developing processes and tools tailored to their specific needs. To understand the needs of taxpayers, contact center leaders are standardizing the approach by using the human-centered design (HDC) technique. To best serve the taxpayers and create that emotional connection immediately, government leaders must understand the needs of the taxpayers by hearing about the good and bad experiences occurring with every single touch point occurring.

Human-centered design thinkers use a tool called a design artifact (physical model) to aid in communicating, exploring, and defining solutions. Government leaders have created a unique design artifact, the customer journey map, to allow leadership and employees to gain a deeper perspective of what the taxpayer is experiencing and feeling at each stage of their life journey. The results of honing in on the needs of the taxpayers will provide seamless, emotionally connected interactions to events that have been identified (by using HCD), as “moments that matter.” The “moments that matter” are moments that can have a significant impact on the taxpayer’s experience that directly connects to government’s contact centers. Creating that immediate emotional connection with the caller is essential in ensuring the experience is a not only positive but meets the needs of the taxpayer.

Government contact centers have historically struggled with gaining positive taxpayer’s satisfaction due to long wait times, inability to get connected, and inaccurate information all contributing to the lack of trust in government’s ability to care for them. To build confidence, make a connection, and provide accurate information, government leaders must understand thoroughly what makes a taxpayers tick and ensure the communication is clear in the minds of the taxpayers and the service rendered yields a positive experience. When looking through the lens of the human-centered design approach, government leaders can gain insight through direct observation or surveys of what the taxpayer likes or dislikes, what was confusing or what was clear, and figure out how to develop an internal process that can meet their needs. Improving the process, also known as lean management, is a critical output to the problems defined when taking the perspective of taxpayers into consideration.

Why You Should Celebrate 2016 National Customer Service Week Oct 3rd – 9th!

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In the words of Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin, “Well done is better than well said.” The idea of customer service is often reserved to describe interaction with stores, restaurants, and other organizations in the private sector. Rarely do we hear people say “Wow, I had a great experience dealing with the staff at any government agency!” Fortunately, those outside of government might be surprised at how seriously excellence in service delivery is taken in the public sector.

Let’s take a look at national Customer Service Week which was created by 1992 by the President of the United States, citing the value of service excellence in a free market economy.

The President’s proclamation said:

A business will do a better job of providing high-quality goods and services by listening to its employees and by empowering them with opportunities to make a difference. Customer service professionals work in the front lines where a firm meets its customers; where supply meets demand. With responsive policies and procedures and with simple courtesy, customer service professionals can go a long way toward ensuring customer satisfaction and eliciting the next round of orders and purchases. The Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 166, has designated the week of October 4 through October 10, 1992, as “National Customer Service Week” and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this week.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the week of October 4 through October 10, 1992, and the first week of October in subsequent years, as National Customer Service Week. I invite all Americans to observe this week with appropriate programs and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this eighth day of October, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and seventeenth.

George H. Bush

Across the country, including the federal government agencies, there is a movement to improve the delivery of information and service to those in need.

During the first week of October 2016, they are making Benjamin Franklin proud by not just talking about customer service but actually doing something (many things actually) to make sure our customers are properly “served.”

Using Lean Management & Human-centered Design to Improve Government Customer Experience

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Lean Management is a customer-centric methodology used to improve the current business process by using the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control) technique. Following the DMAIC blueprint will provide organizations insight into what the actual root cause problem is by measuring and analyzing various data sets, and developing process flow maps to understand the “as is” state.

• Define: Understanding the problem through the outputs of the human-centered design research

• Measure: Measure data pulled from the contact centers

• Analyze: Analyze and determine the cause(s) of the defects (understanding the waste).

• Improve: Improve the process by eliminating defects (unnecessary steps, decreased wait times, and shorter scripts)

• Control: Control future process performance (governance through new policies and procedures)

The lean approach focuses on increasing taxpayer value by improving the processes associated with delivering high customer value. Using the problems defined through the human center design research will point government in the right direction to which processes it needs to begin to hone it on. The problems government thinks are pertinent, may not be relevant in the eyes of the taxpayer. The contact center, being one of the first touch points for a taxpayer, can be reengineered to run more effectively and efficiently by making the internal workflow of calls leaner. The “as is” process map is the starting point to improving services because it visualizes the current process allowing for a clear picture of evident breakdowns in the process.

Defining the problem with the contact center and understanding the process is one piece to the puzzle, the ability to measure, analyze and improve based on the data collected is a critical component to developing sustainable, scalable solutions. Analyzing the various data sets will allow designers to identify areas of waste in the process, ultimately improving the experience of the taxpayer while simultaneously decreasing internal costs for government. Often than not, the government will tack on more employees and additional resources to a problem that can be easily solved by redesigning the process to work more efficiently. The desired outcome is to develop a solution that will be sustainable for government and taxpayers in the future and not a stop-gap solution for today.

Improving how calls are routed, improving the verbiage in the scripts, shortening wait times, and upgrading data collection platforms are all interlocked in improving the taxpayer’s experience when interacting with the contact centers. The one common denominator for all this to be successful is data. Data will allow leadership to understand the pain points in the process and begin to take a proactive approach in improving the taxpayer’s experience. Lean methodologies break down each component of the process to ensure the internal value stream is being utilized effectively to increase customer satisfaction. Human center design thinking is instrumental in providing lean management with accurate taxpayer problems to lay the framework for business process improvements across all facets of the contact center.