By Sean Goforth, Director of Syndicated Research

Better government CX for citizens may be in the works. Six weeks ago, buried amid holiday jingles and worries over Omicron, US President Joseph Biden announced a sweeping policy initiative to improve the “federal customer experience.”

This is long overdue.

US citizens and residents have spent over 9 billion hours on bureaucratic paperwork in recent years, according to the White House. Whether the headache that taxpayers experience trying to get an IRS agent on the phone, or the months-long delays that Americans have endured trying to their passports renewed of late, these account for only a small sliver of that wasted time.

Rising demand for digital solutions by the US federal government is near a breaking point. Pageviews of US government websites rose from 38 billion to over 60 billion from 2019 to 2020. With citizens stuck in their homes, the gulf between inadequate government responses and private-sector CX has become starker and more inexcusable.

Elsewhere, a shift is already underway. From Bahrain to Britain, governments around the globe are getting serious about improving the citizen experience.

“The modern citizen today looks at the government as a service provider,” says Feras Ahmed, CEO at Silah Gulf. “Customer centricity has raised citizen expectation levels to world-class service delivery and government entities are no exception,” he explains, “Outstanding customer experiences are an expectation today.”

Silah Gulf launched operations in 2009 as a contact center owned by the government of Bahrain that was tasked with streamlining and improving CX for citizens, residents and visitors to the country. Today, Silah Gulf earns 70% of its revenue from private sector businesses, especially from telecoms, retail, banks and insurers. But it still handles CX for the government, and any citizen or visitor can rapidly get information or help from any department of the government of Bahrain simply by dialing 8000-8001 toll free.

Britain is also proving a staging ground for better citizen CX.

One UK-based contact center, founded five years ago with a cloud platform that eased work-from-home delivery, has enjoyed significant growth in recent years thanks largely due to its partnership with the United Kingdom’s Health Security Agency in conducting the nationwide Test and Trace campaign.

Crucially, while the demands of the pandemic have helped expose the value of BPOs in helping the government improve CX, the trend represents more than a crisis response.

Ami, an AI-powered virtual assistant developed in the UK, attaches to clients’ webpages and, using data from across the website as well as other web pages that may be relevant, offers end-users customized responses to their queries. So, unlike chatbots that can only handle a single-topic query, Ami can seamlessly pivot between inquiries of a vastly different nature. This has made Ami a hit among local governments in the UK. Embedded on municipal websites like that of the Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council, Ami manages citizen CX across the gamut, from questions about housing to queries about what day a resident can expect trash pickup.

Back stateside, green shoots have emerged in the form of local government websites that centralize data to provide one-stop resolutions for a growing array of resident inquiries. In 2021, Santa Monica, California’s local government rolled out a web app that handles requests on issues related to rent controls, potholes needing to be filled, and other issues as it aims for “frictionless” CX.

What’s needed now is for local government and foreign successes to inspire greater efforts by the federal government. If anything, the turbulence of recent years has proven that private outsourcers possess the capacity and expertise to deliver a vastly improved customer experience. Citizens, after all, are customers too.

Image provided by OZinOH under Creative Commons license