What businesses can teach the public sector about digital services

As more people gain access to new technologies, and become increasingly comfortable sharing information over digital formats, businesses worldwide are taking to the cloud to interact with customers via live chat, quick-response email and a wide variety of communication applications.

With benefits that include greater flexibility, productivity and cost savings, the use of cloud applications with file sharing and collaboration, communication, social media, and content sharing capabilities are on the rise across the board – except, it seems, in the public sector.

Government 2.0: A Riverbed Survey on the public sector digital experience shows that while there is an appetite among citizens for more personal forms of communication and interaction with national and local government bodies, the public sector is viewed as being behind the private sector on most digital markers, especially in key areas around the methods through which citizens can access information, and the technologies available for them to do so.

>See also: The digital transformation of the UK public sector

It’s time for the public sector to take their cue from private organisations.

To ensure that users have a positive view of their digital services and organisations, public sector organisations must transform their solutions in order to meet expectations and improve the user experience.

In practice, this means prioritising systems such as live chat for government services. More importantly, it means ensuring that those systems perform at the speeds the public has grown to expect.

The truth about user experience

The most popular reason to contact the public sector is to obtain information, a process which 70% of citizens find easy. Nonetheless, when considering appointments and communication, the second and third most popular reasons to contact the public sector, significant concerns are revealed.

Almost half (44%) of respondents did not find it easy to make an appointment, and over a third (34%) had to interact with the service more than once to carry out a simple task.

As a result, 45% of end-users think public sector digital services are not as good as they should be. The expectations that are not being met would seem to be a benchmark set by the private sector, which is well-ahead on three crucial tools: email, live chat and social media.

In other words, the most modern, personalised forms of digital communication available.

To illustrate, while 37% of citizens use live chat when dealing with the private sector, only 15% use it when dealing with the public sector.

>See also: Digital transformation in the public sector

This means that the same end-user will be taking advantage of an easy to use system, such as live chat, when dealing with a bank or retailer.

However, when they want to speak to a local authority about refuse collection, for instance, they feel restricted to older, less convenient methods thus impacting user experience.

The reason is that citizens are not willing to put up with slow performing digital services. With 61% saying they give up on applications that run too slowly, performance should be a real cause for concern for the public sector.

According to the report, 70% of citizens are willing to engage with the public sector through newer forms of digital technology, from live chat and social media, to truly innovative ideas, such as video conference court rooms and robot-assisted operations.

To capitalise on this, it will be necessary for public sector digital innovators to follow the example set by banking and retail, aligning their technologies with those that the public want to use, while improving application performance and efficiency.

Lessons from the leaders

The private sector has been quick to understand that in digital communication, user experience is key. An undesirable one means a negative view of the organisation that provides it.

For public organisations, alongside innovation, trust is also vital, especially where communications are concerned. So, in looking to improve the user base and performance of its digital channels, it makes sense to learn from other industries that have successfully balanced trust and service.

The banking and retail sectors are just two examples to follow. They have enabled their customers to access data from an increasing number of connected devices, including smartphones, laptops and tablets, and carry out a range of transactions, swiftly and easily.

These organisations have proactively taken the lead in optimising and accelerating application performance, as well as implementing innovative solutions on a digital-ready IT infrastructure to ensure business success.

Through advances in infrastructure to support digital strategy, as well as visibility, optimisation and control around application performance, they have achieved a ‘frictionless’ experience that does not compromise security or trust.

>See also: Democratising data: why the public sector is banking on blockchain

The public sector can follow suit, aligning their technologies with those that the public want to use, while improving application performance and efficiency.

Just as many businesses have done before them, the key is for public sector organisations to establish clear visibility into their app performance, and the impact this has on the user experience.

Organisations – whether public or private – can’t control what they can’t see. By identifying the cause of performance issues, they can fix them before users notice, resulting in increased productivity and customer experience.

By successfully addressing this issue, the public sector can achieve increased productivity, as well as cost savings.

Thanks to cloud technology, organisations now have the ability to configure applications so that they respond to their needs, and integrate those applications with other systems within the network, ensuring flawless delivery and the best user experience.

Satisfying citizens’ expectations

Moving to a ‘digital first’ future is crucial for all organisations, as citizens have come to expect to communicate with them using efficient, modern communications systems.

>See also: Opening up to open source to the public

Reassuringly for the public sector, they will be providing these innovative services to a receptive audience.

Through advances in infrastructure to support digital strategy, as well as visibility, optimisation and control around application performance, the public sector can follow the example of the best private sector services, raising levels of satisfaction and engagement, ultimately giving users what they need – a seamless digital experience.


Sourced by John Street, regional director, government and defence, UK and Ireland, at Riverbed Technology

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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