The Fourth Digital Experience Government 'Must': Omnichannel
by Dan Katz
Government agencies have historically delivered digital experiences to citizens that are cumbersome and disjointed. Until recently it’s been an inherent, if not necessary, business trait given the information, data, and transactions shared between governments and citizens. There are more rules and regulations dictating what a government organization can and can’t do than apply to other industries, which has often been a barrier to delivering the kinds of digital experiences that citizens have in their everyday lives, and now expect from their governments. To meet those expectations, and the demand for better customer service, many government agencies have been transitioning to open source technologies, implementing personalization practices, and focusing on citizen priorities. Key to continuing this trend is the implementation of an omnichannel strategy.
What is Omnichannel?
Omnichannel is essentially the act of interacting with your consumers wherever they are -- delivering content to any device, through any channel, at any time. Digitally-savvy consumers who are always connected and on-the-go expect to be able to conduct their business, pay their bills, or make a purchase when it’s convenient for them. With an omnichannel strategy in place, organizations are able to make the right information available at the right time, and to make the user experience across channels, and across devices and media types, seamless. Channels could include laptop, tablet, mobile phone, in-person, or call center, where users can interact with you through websites, email, social media, and more. Most recently, this strategy is becoming not only appealing, but imperative, for government agencies, as citizens become more demanding of these types of citizen experiences.
Omnichannel is also about reusable content, and a create once, publish everywhere (COPE) approach to content management. Large government organizations often maintain hundreds of websites, and the ability to automatically syndicate or manually curate content across sites is a huge efficiency.
Why Omnichannel for Government?
Think about how citizens interact with online business services on a day-to-day basis. They can do virtually anything they want, from checking out a library book online, to transferring funds between financial institutions, to monitoring where their children are -- all with a few short swipes on a mobile device.
Everyday consumers expect to be able to act on a whim whenever and wherever they want to, and this expectation is being extended from the private sector to every aspect of their life -- including government interactions. Citizens are no longer giving government a free pass for not providing the same caliber experience as the private sector, and as consumers continue to live in a mobile-first, digitally connected world, it’s going to become increasingly important for governments to make their own processes more accessible and more efficient.
According to a recent report by the U.S. Federal Reserve, 87 percent of U.S. adults have a mobile phone, and 71 percent of those mobile phones are Internet-enabled smartphones. This proves that for government agencies, implementing an omnichannel plan is non-negotiable - much like developing a personalization strategy, or implementing an open technology foundation. If they’re not accessible for citizens on-the-go, they’ll quickly lose that important consumer connection they must built to achieve digital success.
The benefits of an omnichannel strategy aren’t limited to citizens as the end users, however. By using an open source technology like Drupal that supports multiple content types and devices, employees have the ability to “create once, publish everywhere.” This method makes the publication and maintenance of content much more efficient and streamlined.
How Do You Implement Omnichannel in Government?
The key here is to implement right from the start. Just like when implementing a personalization plan, you need to incorporate an omnichannel initiative during the discovery and content strategy phase of your project. You should be thinking about where you want your content to be published and in what format, and then architect your project with that in mind. Working with a vendor that has expertise if your team doesn’t, and choosing a technology like Drupal that is designed for enabling omnichannel, will get you started off on the right foot.
In the next post in this series on the New Digital Experience Government, I’ll explore Must #5: Cultural Support.