When you want to do a usability test, sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone and get creative to get the job done. That’s just what happened to us. We’re well practiced at usability testing at USAGov—in person, remote, hallway tests, first-click tests—all of these things we manage without blinking an eye. But this spring, we tried something new. Our office was planning to make some changes to our IVR script.
Government Contact Centers
Journey maps are a visual representation of a customer’s end to end journey with your product or service. They are a powerful tool for exploring key interactions and experiences with your organization, programs, and/or services. Journey maps describe a customer’s entire journey, even the parts that occur before and after contact with your organization. They typically contain elements such as the customer’s attitudes, emotions, and needs. We recently updated USA.
I recently wrapped up a series of user interviews as part of a review of our judiciary-wide intranet in order to provide better digital services to our customers (and yes, our internal users are our customers, not just the general public). As I prepare to delve back into determining user and content needs for a more varied audience and wider platform, I thought it might be helpful to share lessons learned during my recent effort and any new strategies that might be helpful for anyone getting ready to jump into their users’ brains.
Thirteen years in digital is an eon, and on the eve of its 13th birthday, we at USA.gov found ourselves reckoning with a mid-life crisis. In the thirteen years since Firstgov.gov was launched (and ten years for FirstGov en Español), the sheer volume and sophistication of government websites has exploded. We’ve seen Web customers evolve from timid and curious users to adroit searchers who can download music, read a newspaper, and respond to a text message simultaneously—using only their thumbs.
The federal government has caught the customer experience bug. We want our customers to complete their tasks with minimal effort using a streamlined process. If they need personal help, we want it to be quick, polite, and provide the best answer. But that personal help frequently requires a team of highly skilled, dedicated people—a contact center. When people call to ask how much it will or should cost their agency to have a contact center, I can’t give them an answer.
DigitalGov University has added podcasts to our suite of offerings on DigitalGov, featuring interviews and discussions with leaders in the DigitalGov community. For the first edition, we talked to Diane Devera, “Voice of the IVR” for the USA.gov Contact Center. In this 10 minute discussion with Jacob Parcell, Manager of Mobile Programs, Devera discusses several considerations about interactive voice response (IVR) for federal contact centers, including: Why are IVRs important for government contact centers?
For more than 40 years, Warren Snaider has been working at the General Services Administration providing government information to the public. A Senior Federal Information Specialist, Snaider has witnessed government contact centers evolve as technology has changed the way people communicate and access information. Snaider first joined the Federal Information Center in Sacramento in 1972. His was one of 41 centers across the United States where people could walk into the lobby of a federal building and ask questions.
Users have questions. Your content and website navigation can help them find answers, or potentially cause frustration. One tool for answering questions is up for debate: are FAQ sections still relevant in 2015, or are they a relic of bygone days? Nielsen Norman Group recently published two articles arguing for the continued use and usefulness of FAQs: FAQs Still Deliver Great Value and An FAQs User Experience. In response, a counter opinion was released by Gerry McGovern: FAQs Are the Dinosaurs of Web Navigation.
Social media tools can amplify your agency’s message, but they are also a meeting space for two-way conversations. They can be a key tool to resolve user issues and deliver excellent customer service. This is true for agencies in every corner of the government space. In honor of our monthly contact center theme, we reached out to the Social Media Community of Practice to learn more about how social media complements the work of federal contact centers.
SMS messages are an excellent way to reach audiences. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) saw SMS messages as an opportunity to reach the public for the implementation of their Mobile Health Behavioral Intervention Programs. NCI has 15 SMS based programs, including HealthyYouTxt, a program designed to help users live a healthier lifestyle, and SmokeFreeTxt, a program designed to help users quit smoking. In this piece, we will talk specifically about the domestic version of the SmokeFreeTxt program, one of their most popular programs.
In May 2014, Sarah Crane discussed the importance of structured content, APIs and the development of a “Create Once, Publish Everywhere” (COPE) strategy at USA.gov via a three part video series. After my recent post about a world without Web pages, Sarah and I connected and we discussed the challenges she has experienced during the COPE project at USA.gov and some lessons to consider whether you’re at the beginning or early stages of a similar project.
The Government Contact Center Council (G3C), led by GSA’s Tonya Beres, has been working with DigitalGov University to host events for the contact center community across the federal government. This year they hosted events and posted articles that will help you get a contact center up and running, make up-to-date changes to meet 21st century expectations, and incorporate new features like adaptive content, chat, and handling social media inquiries.
At the end of last year, DigitalGov posted an article predicting that 2016 would be the year of the customer. Stephanie Thum, Vice President of Customer Experience at Export-Import Bank, looked at the great strides made in federal customer service in 2014 and called it the year of “planting seeds.” She then pointed to 2015 as the year of “germination and nurturing.” Our DigitalGov team decided to go to the root of a lot of agency customer service: contact centers.
Don’t forget, mobile first strategy can include text messaging and SMS, not just native apps and responsive Web design. Ninety percent of all SMS messages are read within three minutes of being received, according to a recent blog post on Gigaom. Paired with an average open rate of 98% (versus 22% for email) and the fact that any mobile device out there is able to read a text message, SMS is a great way to reach out to pretty much anyone.
Innovative wearables, stronger wifi and more 3D printing have been among the many projections for the future of mobile in 2015. Whatever comes to pass, we can be certain that the anytime, anywhere user will develop new habits and desires based on new trends. Government must accelerate its customer service approach with anytime, anywhere efforts to keep up. Here’s what I see agencies will have to do to keep up and–just maybe get ahead–in 2015.
With public expectations at an all-time high, and trust in government nearing all-time lows, agencies need to step up their game. Veterans, seniors, students, taxpayers—all Americans—deserve the best service from their government. Here are our predictions for how the federal government will improve customer service in the coming year: 1. Many agencies will create a Customer Office that reports to the head of the agency. In most government agencies, no one owns the overall customer experience.
Smartphones are changing how organizations do business—they are more than just smart Web browsers. As I noted last week, purchases from mobile phones have dramatically increased during the holiday shopping season. The infographic from IfByPhone demonstrates how people are using their smartphones not only to buy things and research products, but also to open emails and access social media. Users also still call organizations on the go. 87% of smartphone and tablet owners use their devices to shop.
As part of its ongoing effort to enhance customer experience for current and prospective exporters, the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. (Ex-Im Bank) is unveiling a new and improved customer contact center that includes an improved 1-800 number experience, along with a new email response system. The contact center is also poised to launch new online chat capabilities early in the new year. “Our focus is on our customers—the thousands of U.
Live Web chat is an important component of good customer service. People like having the option of talking with an agent in real-time without having to pick up the phone. While live chat is not widespread, several agencies have shown great success in serving the public through this alternative channel. At a recent Government Contact Center Council meeting, colleagues from HHS (cancer.gov), Education (StudentAid.gov), and GSA (USA.gov) shared their challenges and successes in implementing and managing Web chat.
“In business, words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises, but only performance is reality.” Harold S. Geneen As government contact center managers, we dream of having contact center contractors who regularly exceed our performance expectations. One way to motivate your contractor to excel is by including financial incentives/disincentives directly into your contact center contract. The concept for incentives/disincentives is a simple one—pay more when your contractor over performs; pay less when your contractor under performs.
As government contact centers, we all face financial and technological constraints in our pursuit to improve the customer experience. One challenge faced by many contact centers is staffing limitations to handle the volume of incoming customer traffic. There are barely enough employees to operate phones, let alone work on meeting or exceeding the organizational customer satisfaction performance goals. One initiative that was important to the City of Philadelphia’s 311 non-emergency contact center was the successful collection of customer feedback and coaching our employees to improve the customers’ experience with each transaction.
All of us want to improve the content and information we provide to the public, but we’re intimidated by where to start: Does our website provide clear content? Is the best information hidden on pages a few layers down? What should we tweet about this month? What are customers saying about our information? The best source of this information is a resource right in your agency–your agency’s Contact Center.
Using contact centers to deliver digital services is an emerging area in government. Due to the growth of online services, centers receive more attention and represent an important touch point for customers. When you need to speak directly with someone to get help or resolve an issue, it must be a good experience. This reflects on all channels associated with that brand. Timeliness of resolving your problem, question or request.
1. Meet all Laws, Requirements, Policies, and Directives for Federal Contact Centers Understand and follow all Privacy, Security, Disability, and Service Contract Act requirements. 2. Use Performance Metrics to Influence Business Rules and Drive Improvements Develop Key Performance Indicators/Metrics (see Performance Goals). CSLIC could be used as a start. 3. Develop and Use a Comprehensive Quality Assurance Program Monitor quality. Use data to provide feedback to website/content team.
Contact centers operated and managed by federal agencies have to follow certain laws, regulations, policies, and other directives. Unless specifically noted, contact centers operated and managed by states or local governments do not have to comply with these same requirements. Access for People with Disabilities (Section 508) Federal contact centers must comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Review the requirements and the accompanying guidance to ensure your contact center makes services accessible to individuals with disabilities.
Mobile Gov Experiences are agency stories about creating anytime, anywhere, any device government services and info. This entry is a story shared by GSA’s Office of Citizen Services & Innovative Technologies, Contact Center Services Division. The National Contact Center’s Text Message Program The Contact Center Services Division, within GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, manages the National Contact Center. The NCC exists to answer the public’s questions about all federal programs and services, by getting people to the information they need.