December 19, 2018

3 Barriers to Engaging Citizens in Digital Channels

As a government agency, which industries are you looking at when benchmarking your digital experience? Your citizens, according to Accenture, are holding their governments to the same or higher standards as their commercial providers. In just two years, citizen expectations of  government digital services increased by 12 percent and this number will only continue to grow greatly.

Although most government agencies have basic digital platforms, they may still be missing the mark. To drive change in citizen behavior and offer a digital experience that will improve government and citizen engagement, we are exposing three significant obstacles to citizens using digital government services and how addressing these barriers for a greater citizen experience can positively impact their views of government.


Barrier 1: Poor Website Organization

45 percent of U.S. citizens indicated poor website organization as a barrier they have encountered when using digital government services. Building a website today is only a small portion of the battle. In today’s mobile-centric landscape, it is extremely important to offer a mobile app or mobile responsive website in order to provide an organized and streamlined experience for mobile users. Attempting to view a desktop version of a website on a mobile phone will give the impression of disorganization and make it difficult to navigate or locate information, often ending with a frustrating citizen experience. Intuitive digital platforms enable greater self-service and better experiences for all citizens whether enrolling in e-bill, paying a property tax bill, or seeking government information.


Barrier 2: Irrelevant Search Results and Navigation

When a citizen is attempting to search for information such as how to pay a property tax online, offering a search function that does not return relevant information is a sure turn off for the user. Ensure you design a digital experience with the citizen in mind. By understanding what information they will be searching for on the site, you can address common questions through FAQs or even leverage new technologies such as artificial intelligence with natural language processing. Natural language processing can be used in chatbot technology to allow citizens to use everyday language instead of preset phrases or keywords to interact in online chat, automated voice (IVR), and SMS text channels. The solution allows citizens to complete tasks and receive answers to frequently asked question, and then analyzes citizens’ answers to automate and improve the self-service process.


Barrier 3: Conflicting Information

When it comes to citizen experiences, consistency will help foster government trust and engagement. 38 percent of U.S. citizens don’t have the same confidence in the information they receive digitally as the information they receive over the phone, in person, or by regular mail. If your government agency is working toward reducing inbound calls, long walk-in center lineups, or paper communications, this is a major barrier. By providing the same experiences across all citizen touch points and channels, you can build confidence. Ensure that the information that is shared throughout the website is up-to-date and is the same as the information provided via traditional channels. Think “omni-channel government” – a seamless experience across all government channels.  


Why Addressing Digital Barriers is Worth It

We’ll leave you with a few statistics from Accenture that highlight the importance of getting your citizens’ digital channels right and why it should be an area of focus heading into 2019.

According to citizens, improving digital government services will positively change the following:

Source: Accenture. Digital government: Great expectations, untapped potential. 2016.