By Sean Goforth, Director of Syndicated Research at Ryan Strategic Advisory

Western governments often do a poor job of helping citizens over the phone or online. In the United States, this crisis reached a shameful low with the news, published by the Wall Street Journal in July, that roughly 1-in-6 calls to America’s suicide prevention hotline went unanswered from 2016-2021.

Other examples abound. In 2021, IRS representatives answered just 11% of the phone calls placed to the tax agency, according to the organization’s watchdog. Meanwhile, the level of service online can be comically bad.

European governments offer a mixed bag. In its latest report on e-government services, the Paris-based global outsourcer Capgemini noted that roughly 80% of government services across Europe have a webpage. (The countries assessed in the report include the EU states and 8 other European nations closely wed to the EU economy.)

That’s the good news. Also, citizens of Luxembourg, Estonia and Malta enjoy high levels of support from digital healthcare services.

Elsewhere though, access to digital information is spotty. In eight of the European countries, citizens “still need to refer to non-digital means” for help. In particular, the lack of information published online in English is a major shortcoming for non-citizens who are less likely to speak their host country’s tongue, the Capgemini report concludes.

Part of the problem is political. In many Western democracies, the battle lines between incumbent parties are dug so deep that new solutions are ignored in favor of stale policies that appeal to a party’s base. But another culprit is that agencies like the IRS lack the employees needed.

Third-party outsourcers can help solve this problem and deliver better citizen CX.

Already, small governments on the fringes of the West are showing the way forward. In Bahrain, for instance, you can call 8000-8001 toll-free and get information from any department of the government.

In Georgia, Public Service Halls found in each of the country’s larger cities offer an outstanding 400 government services in one place, ranging from incorporating a business to obtaining a marriage license. On a recent BPO influencer visit to the Public Service Hall in Tbilisi, analysts and consultants from abroad were shocked at the turnaround time for many of these services: an example that stood out was that a Georgian passport can be renewed in 15 minutes. Last year Georgia’s government doubled down on digitalization, announcing a plan to offer “hundreds of public services remotely” through a mobile app.

And COVID-19, for all the pain and hardship it wrought, has jumpstarted telemedicine. Across countries, agents with third-party outsourcers assisted patients who took an at-home COVID-19 test, helping to ensure reliable results and high levels of patient care. In Britain, BPOs helped in the nation’s test and trace campaign. Numerous local governments across the United States deployed chatbots, both to help triage questions from people who may have had symptoms of COVID-19 but also to tackle routine inquiries about driver registration or water services.

Drawing on these examples, true citizen CX can now be realized at scale. In 2021, the European Commission set out a six-year program to modernize digital services for citizens, earmarking €7.5billion for the project. As part of this, the Commission recently announced a funding round of €200million for the construction of European Digital Innovation Hubs that companies can bid to build.

What remains is for outsourcers and governments to partner. In a keynote address at CxOutsourcers 2022, Stephanie Todd, founder at SoulCX, forecast a future where improved CX will be part of the policy pledge of political candidates.  To that end, several months ago President Biden made it clear that US federal services needed to improve from a front-line perspective.

Hopefully, this will come to pass. A focus on citizen CX would mean better voice and online services for all of us—and stronger democracies as well.

Image sourced from Can Pac Swire under Creative Commons license