GovInnovate Brief

Self-service government: What to do and what to avoid

Posted by GovInnovate Team on 19 May 2017, 12:36:07

Self-service government: What to do and what to avoid

The time: 2008. The organisation: Philadelphia Police Department. The achievement: fighting crime with the aid of 60,000 good Samaritans on social media.

Since 2008, the Philly Police have used their Twitter and YouTube accounts to release surveillance footage of perpetrators. Savvy-citizens then pool together to connect the dots with photos posted on Twitter and Facebook check-ins to help the police close leads on important investigations.

We no longer need to watch Law and Order to get our fix of technology-boosted crime-fighters because  today there is so much more technology can do than just helping police departments find perpetrators. Technology is constantly changing the way citizens and governments interact and communicate, and the more technologically-savvy citizens become, the more open they will be to innovative digital government services.

This post looks at self-service government as a viable means to offer citizens a great experience as they become more open to interacting with public sector services in a digital space.   


Automated service delivery through self-service

Citizens are becoming more confident in government organisations delivering quality and easy to use services, and as we covered in our previous post, the next generation of technology is already changing consumer expectations. So it makes sense for the natural transition of digital service delivery to begin introducing self-service capabilities that make support easier for users. Self-service portals don’t have to replace already existing services, they can be put in place to make it possible for users to login and update their details when they’re free rather than having to call during office hours.

Self-service portals are very broadly defined, and can cover any activity that allows a user to:

  • Self-log incidents
  • Self-resolve issues
  • Access/request information
  • Update/amend personal details
  • Access live chat functionality

Officially defined on Wikipedia as the ‘practice of serving oneself’, self-service usually relates to being able to purchase something on your own accord, but in the context of government refers to accessing services without the need of customer service representatives.

Introducing an effective and user-friendly self-service portal is a great way to improve end-user satisfaction, however, if users have trouble interacting with the portal, or just have a bad time with it in general, they won’t want to return to the portal anytime soon. Take a look below to see how your government organisation can overcome the biggest challenge of operating a self-service portal.



The biggest challenge? Balance responsiveness

As with any new service, there we be users who aren’t used to serving themselves and at first these are the citizens that will have the most trouble using an unfamiliar service. Some users may struggle finding details they need or using the self-features to change their details, so it’s important to include instructions or offering tutorial videos or live chat during the experience.

There is also a misconception that once self-service is introduced you can park the need for customer service representatives that answer phone enquiries because from here on in your agency will be call-free. However, this isn’t the case. Self-service just changes the nature as to why people are calling. Maybe they couldn’t complete the action they needed to in the service, or maybe the service is malfunctioning. It’s then incredibly important to be able to offer those who are having trouble assistance.

If there are genuine problems it’s important to get them resolved straight away, but there will be cases where user error has occurred. An important aspect to self-service is to use language users will understand. For example, head of global customer operations at the Swedish postal service Teleopti, Annica Ronquist states that even something as simple as changing “track and trace tool” to “Where is my parcel” makes an immense difference is the usability of a service.

We’ll discuss this in more detail in the takeaway section, but one vital aspect digital service delivery project teams need to consider is the avenues for gaining citizen feedback. If all interactions are automated through a virtual assistance, then there needs to be a way to capture evaluation of the user experience.



Key takeaways: Don’t set it and forget it

One of the most common tips for ensuring self-service portals are a success is to ensure you constantly measure and assess how well your service is performing. Technology solutions need to evolve and adapt to user preferences.

 Evolution of iOS for iPhone

If you’re an iPhone user, you may not think that from outside appearances the software has changed very much. But from years of user feedback (and a few software hiccups) the user interface has evolved from being a set of vertically ordered apps, to being more aesthetically pleasing. intuitive, and interchangeable.

facebook news feed.jpg

The same thing can be said about Facebook. Any early users of Facebook may remember the platform as mainly hosting embarrassing photos your friends took on the weekend. But you may be surprised to know that the news feed was introduced mid-2006, and the like button came along a few years later in mid-2009. 

Delivering minute changes over time that make the user experience better with each year is what will make or break your self-service portal. But one of the most important aspects in implementing changes is making sure those changes are: 1). Making life easier for users; and 2). Fixing bugs and problems within the platform.

As a government service provider it’s essential to measure results against clear objectives. No technology platform or service is the same, and measuring your success is the difference between your platform being a pre-news feed Facebook, and the “Bill Smith is now live” Facebook.

Has your government organisation implemented any self-service projects? Let us know in the comments below.  

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Topics: Digital Transformation

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