I had an interesting conversation with longtime government employee on a recent flight about whether or not a good digital customer experience matters for government programs. His position was that a good digital customer experience costs money that could be better used for other things. He continued on that since government is not in the business of making a profit that is dependent upon a good customer experience, a good customer experience was a nice to have but not a necessary for government programs.
After serving in and around government for almost 20 years, I can understand where he is coming from. If people really need a government service, then how good the customer experience is probably won’t matter. For example, if you need to get a new drivers license, you will suffer through standing in line for hours, inane forms that you have to fill out, and some civil servant who is more interested in their personal call then finishing with you. BTW… these are all things I suffered through the last time I got a new drivers license. Could a better customer experience decrease your wait time, make the forms easier to fill out, and give you someone who is actually interested in doing their job? Probably. Will it cost more then the current level of customer experience? Probably. Will you come back anyway when it is time even if the customer experience is still bad? Yes. So should government agencies worry about customer experience? Yes.
Why should government agencies worry about customer experience? Because customer experience actually breaks down into three aspects – useful, usable, and enjoyable. When people think about a digital customer experience, they generally focus on the enjoyable aspects of the Web – for example an amazing flash experience on a Web site, a great instructional video, etc. But they tend to forget the more critical components of a good experience – useful and usable – and these need to be the primary focus of a good government customer experience.
- Useful – Does the government Web site has the necessary content and functionality that the citizen or business needs to get to the desired outcome for both the government entity and the constituent? Since everyone who walks through that virtual door of a government agency is potentially a constituent, government agencies are going to get some strange requests. You don’t have to fulfill all of them and decide which you will focus on based upon the needs of your primary audience.
- Usable – Is it easy to get to the functionality and content the user requires? This is simple usability and it is amazing that any site fails when it comes to usability, but they do.
So government agencies need to stay away from the entertainment aspects. Instead, agencies should remember that people come to government Web sites because they need to accomplish something, so useful and usable are key criteria.