By Charles Brooks, Featured Contributor
THE SUBJECT OF INNOVATION has become a focal point of discussion in the Federal government , particularly in customer service. The impetus for this new focus was the unveiling of President Obama’s 2012 Government Digital Strategy to transform and modernize government through better use of information technology and data.
Since a primary function of government is to address constituent needs, customer service has yielded an impressive amount of innovation in recent years. Areas of customer service such as customer call centers, transaction processing, and document management are examples of government practices where innovation is really making a difference.
As a consequence of major commercial investments in automation software by the private sector, the technology for contact centers (call centers and service desks) is much more effective than it was just a few years ago. There has been an amazing technological transformation. New
offerings allow real-time monitoring, tools and techniques to handle calls with fewer resources and better quality. These state-of-the-art multi-channel contact tools; phone, email, web, mobility, have made the ability for service desk agents to communicate instant and often. Through algorithm generated software self-service tools on integrated management platforms, agents can be quickly knowledgeable on almost any issue and rapidly respond to customer requests. Advanced analytics have also made answering and responding to calls, predictable and scalable.
As with contact centers, document management and transaction processing technology has also benefited from innovation. New digitization and imaging technologies, indexing operations, and work-flow software tech have transformed how work is done. Advanced imaging and optic technologies provide for metadata extraction of document files at rapid speeds and yield quicker cycle times. In the federal government, millions of images are tracked, scanned, and transmitted every day with amazing accuracy standards. The speeds and quality for processing documents, securing transactions have had an almost Malthusian growth as a result of modernized hardware and software.
While technology is an integral component of innovation, people and processes are also a key part of the equation. Despite living in a mostly digital age, people – not machines – still provide critical services to other people. Interpersonal communications still matter to resolve issues and bring customer satisfaction with insight and guidance. Along with new technologies, innovations can also be integrated into business processes. Service desk agents can be trained in ISO and Lean Sigma Six process improvements. Such training breeds consistency, efficiency and quality services (and politeness). The training also allows for a more predictable allocation of capital resources with fiscally accountable results for the government.
At the end of the day, a happy worker is a productive worker. Worker assistance tools do make the job more manageable but compensation-based incentives really prevent attrition rates and ensure quality performance. It has been proven in the private sector that paying incentives for performance leads to cost-savings and success. Lessons learned from such commercial practices can be integrated into public programs and will benefit both the government and citizens.
Customer service innovation in government is a beneficiary of the digital revolution. The advancements in technology and people processes have streamlined operational capabilities.
It is also a good study of how best the public and private sectors can collaborate and work together via Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) to meet the top requirement of fulfilling constituent needs.