Dec 12 2023

Tech Trends: 3 Strategies to Consider When Modernizing Government Contact Centers

State and local agencies should consider multichannel, automated and data-driven approaches to fielding citizen inquiries.

Providing efficient services is a key goal for many state and local agencies. Avoiding office visits and long lines appeals to citizen stakeholders and agency staff alike. Using contact centers to speed and simplify service delivery is now a common practice.

But can you update and modernize to meet ever-changing needs and ever-growing demand for services? Here are three key strategies.

1. Younger Citizens Prefer Multichannel Communications

Most contact centers started as phone-based services, staffed locally or outsourced. Technology marches on, however. A contact center accessible via phone, email, mobile applications, web chat, and text or direct message will better match citizen preferences.

Some of this is generational. It’s not just anecdotal that members of Generation Z avoid phone calls: Multiple research studies conclude that there’s a strong preference by millennials and Gen Z for text and email over voice, with some documenting anxiety among younger participants at the prospect of a voice phone call. There are other reasons people are shifting to online communications, as well. Individuals with difficulty hearing or speaking and those who need access to services outside business hours will hit the keyboard first.

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So, how best to shift from a single channel, such as voice, to multiple channels? Should agencies go with separate centers, with different staffing and outsourcing? Call center managers who have gone through this transition say no. Handling multiple channels can be complicated, as contact volume for each will vary according to the time of day and year.

Experience shows that keeping all channels within a single pool of agents will make it easier to train and update agents and to shift between different channels quickly as demand requires. While some agents may strongly prefer to work on a particular channel, and this can usually be accommodated, it’s good to have cross-training and rotate agents across channels to help build a stronger corporate memory.

Newer tools also better support remote workers and upskill them with continuous training. If an agency hasn’t already started to take advantage of the large pool of remote workers available, now is the time.

2. Automation Ensures Speed and Accuracy in Responses

Adding automation speeds service delivery and, in most cases, increases customer satisfaction. In its simplest form, automation can help answer FAQs or deliver information, eliminating the need for a human to get involved. While this read-only automation may not deliver anything that’s not already available on the agency website, that doesn’t mean it’s not useful: Some users may have trouble navigating the site or find it easier to ask questions in natural language.

For large agencies, updating contact center scripts and decision trees in multiple languages may be easier, cheaper and faster than touching a website. A nice bonus for basic automation is the ability to add multilingual support on a 24/7 basis.

The ultimate goal of automation should be to directly meet citizen requests. Updating demographic and contact information, making appointments and requesting services, checking the status of requests, retrieving information from agency databases: These should all be part of a contact center automation project. Putting active elements consistently into as many channels as possible is easier if a single system drives the contact center — another reason to spread multiple channels across one contact center rather than separately managed systems.

LEARN MORE: Modern data platforms can help deliver better citizen experiences.

One important factor to balance is security: The anonymous nature of the internet makes it easier for bad actors to interact with online systems. A very clear threat analysis and risk management plan should be included. Some controls, such as rate limiting to reduce the possibility of data harvesting or credential guessing, are a requirement for all agencies.

If officials understand an agency’s risk appetite as well as the real risk, it will be easier to decide what types of operations can and can’t be added to an online contact center.

3. Data-Driven Strategies Improve Customer Satisfaction

One benefit of automated and online contact centers is the amount of clear and consistent data agencies can collect. Taking advantage of this data can improve services and increase customer satisfaction. The information coming out of contact center software is invaluable, and a regular review of what’s happening should be part of any planning or update cycle.

Old-school contact center managers traditionally focus on agent statistics: hold times, satisfaction ratings, service times. That’s still important information. But every transaction that avoids an agent will save money and improve response time. Studying what people do before they transfer to an agent is a critical task, and well worth the time spent.

If agencies are considering modernization projects that include automation, learn from the world of software and engage in agile development. Don’t try to build an entire set of contact center scripts, decision trees and automated operations on day one. Such a move may be procurement-friendly, but it means that agencies will be stuck with the results of any errors. Instead, get something up and running quickly that is easy to modify, then use the data from the system and the contact center agents to understand when to update, extend and clarify.

Contact centers are portals that serve the needs of citizens, reduce staff time spent on less productive tasks and advance the goals of the agency. Modernizing contact centers with data-driven design, multiple channels of communication and a high degree of automation provides benefits to everyone.

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