Solving the Federal Customer Service Problem with Technology

June 23, 2015 Helen Barton

Customers are the lifeblood of any organization and ensuring their satisfaction should be a top priority. In the past, customer service was perceived as an organizational support function. But it has evolved, thanks to the digital nature of our world. Today, it’s easy for a dissatisfied customer to publicize their grievances over social media and impact the public perception of a company – or a government agency. Social media software company Lithium published an infographic about word-of-mouth-marketing via social media and found that 81 percent of consumers are influenced by their friends’ social media posts.

A report by the American Customer Satisfaction Index shows that citizen satisfaction with federal customer service is at an all-time low. Based on this data, government agencies are placing a larger emphasis on finding ways to improve constituent care.

In a recent post, I discussed how the public sector can create a better customer service environment by giving citizens more communication options based on today’s technology like online portals, text messaging, web self-service and social media. This multi-channel approach is definitely important. And backing it with technology that empowers customer service agents and improves processes is critical to making your agency’s customer service top notch.

Federal IT managers looking for ways to improve customer service should consider investing in these three technologies:

Advanced CRM selectively presents the information an agent needs when it's needed.

Advanced CRM selectively presents the information an agent needs when it’s needed.

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems – Even in today’s digital world, customer satisfaction still depends on live communication. When a citizen speaks with a customer service agent, they expect them to be helpful and prompt. CRM solutions make agents smarter. They organize critical information in an easy-to-use portal that gives agents the necessary data to solve a customer’s problem. With advanced CRM tools, agents are no longer inundated with irrelevant information that they have to sift through. Instead, they can focus on what the customer is saying, improving first-time call resolution and satisfaction.
  • Interactive Voice Response Systems (IVRs) – For customer support over the phone can be successful without live agents, it needs to become more automated, smarter and more sophisticated. IVRs can help constituents answer their own questions or direct them to the correct department. The technology can even learn from constituents based on past interactions and customize the customer service process based on their language preferences or proactively provide information they typically request. If there is a surge in interest on one topic, IVRs can be updated to give callers quick answers without having to talk to a live agent. Overall, IVRs reduce agency costs and enhance the customer experience.
  • Virtual Workforce Programs – Happy agents equals happy citizens and one way to improve employee morale is to offer telework options. Technology and equipment can be quickly installed to give at-home agents the necessary tools they need to provide first-class customer care. Cloud technology helps virtual agents access call center software and customer information no matter where they’re located. Additionally, agencies can monitor and track an agent’s performance within the customer service software identifying areas for improvement. Workplace mobility is a focus for many agencies and these green initiatives decrease facilities costs and increase employee satisfaction, ultimately impacting their happiness and how they serve customers.

The bottom line: customer care has evolved. In order to deliver superior service, agencies must develop a multi-channel approach to reach customers on their preferred medium, and invest in technology to help agents do their jobs better, making constituent interactions productive and positive.

About the Author

Helen Barton

Senior Vice President, Operations; Customer Care Leader for Xerox Public Sector

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