4 Steps to The Digital Experience Modern Citizens Expect

Howard Langsam of Granicus advises how municipalities can delight modern citizens, delivering on digital experience expectations in four steps.

When was the last time you were truly delighted by a digital experience? Maybe it was during your last trip to the airport, pre-paying for coffee or ordering groceries online. When it works well, technology is our best friend and greatest ally; it enhances our daily lives in ways many of us take for granted.

Every day, the bar is being raised on what it takes to satisfy the average consumer. The speed at which technology is advancing continues to inform their expectations, and the perception in government is that it's impossible to keep up.

But it is possible to meet the expectations of today’s citizens, and it doesn't require a complete technology overhaul or millions of dollars in investment. Here are the four primary tools that – when strategically prioritized – can satisfy, and delight, customers while decreasing government's costs.

#1 Create a Modern Website Hub, Not a Storefront

Your website creates a first impression with your audience; it’s often the place where the citizen journey begins. For too long, websites have been built like storefronts -- places where the information people want and need lives, but where getting to it quickly or easily is impossible.

A truly modern website is built with responsive design and is informed by data.

The rule of thumb with well-designed websites is that it should take less than four clicks to get the information that a visitor is looking for – from start to finish.

More and more, citizens are looking for self-service options on your website. Is there a place where citizens can go if they get stuck? Can they sign up for more information on specific topics easily? Having a well-designed website is key, but empowering citizens with options can lead to greater satisfaction as citizens come and go from your site.

#2 Digitize Paper Processes – Yesterday

If your organization still mandates paper applications (or, my goodness, faxing) then it's time to digitize as soon as possible. The evidence is clear: requiring the transfer of information via paper frustrates most citizens, increases staff time dedicated to processing, reduces transparency and minimizes your ability to keep accurate records. Plus, it's very costly to maintain.

The 80/20 rule applies to paper processes: you can save 80 percent of your time by applying technology to just 20 percent of your work. So this doesn't mean a complete overhaul. If you start small and work your way toward a complete digital experience the savings of time and money will be significant.

#3 Connect on Multiple Digital Platforms

Did you know that it takes an average of 13 "touches" - or connection points – for content to be remembered?

It's a classic marketing principle that the average consumer will not take action without being prompted early and often.

The same goes for public sector messaging. Use multiple platforms to connect with citizens, including email, text messaging and social media, to increase the probability of prompting action.

Digital platforms also can provide instant feedback on what's working and what's not with analytics, which means your strategy can always be improved in response to what your audience prefers.

#4 Band Together with Other Public Sector Organizations

Unlike the private sector, sharing information and cross-promotion opportunities between government organizations contributes to a shared goal: to enhance the lives of the citizens we serve. It's never a bad thing to help another agency or department increase their visibility with your audience – and it's easier than you think.

Of the 4,000 organizations Granicus works with to enhance outcomes, a majority already are doing this work by promoting each other's content when citizens subscribe to their newsletters and helping each other increase subscribers in the GovDelivery Network. This base of subscribers is growing every day and today reaches 185 million people – or half of the U.S.  population. By banding together, government organizations can inform more citizens and have a greater impact on common goals.

Keeping pace with modern expectations is ongoing process, but it is possible to delight citizens with every interaction if we strategically prioritize digital platforms. Soon, these seamless digital experiences will be the new normal.

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