A busy business professional stands on a corner with an arm stretched out, trying to catch a taxi. Once a routine occurrence, it's now suddenly a quaint, odd-looking ritual. Technology changes our behavior faster than we can process, and with it comes a new set of rules for how we interact with each other, businesses, and even the government.
We are bringing on-demand, app-enabled expectations to the public sector, seeking a similarly customized and convenient experience. What does the rise of the “digital citizen” mean for the Federal Government? How do we compare our access to government services with those of commercial platforms? What technologies show the most promise for transforming our federal digital experience?
To help us answer these questions and more, we partnered with Ipsos, a leading global market and opinion research firm. We asked respondents how their experience with the Federal Government stacked up with commercial websites. We also wanted to know what more they wanted from their digital experience with the Federal Government.
To find out, we launched a public survey in early February 2018 to 1,000 participants. They had a lot to say. Here’s what we learned:
We expect to engage with the Federal Government online. More than three quarters of people who have recently accessed Federal Government information have obtained it online at a Federal Government website, an impressive 78 percent of respondents.
Relatively few survey respondents accessed information from the Federal Government in the past 12 months (26%), but those who did accessed it largely online through federal websites (78%). In terms of other ways to access federal information, these significantly trailed websites. For example, others accessed via mail (24%), email (21%), and phone (18%). This is a marked change from the late 1990s and early 2000s, when federal call centers were overwhelmed by customers, as illustrated by the 2002 Harvard Business Review Case Study of the IRS Transformation. With this shift to online engagement, federal leaders need to consider their website the digital front door to their agencies.
We want the same innovations on Federal websites that we see on commercial websites. We want to see federal websites provide support when needed, especially in the form of an online chat function.
We asked survey respondents to rank actions that the Federal Government could take now to improve their online experiences. Their top three responses?
- Make it easier to find information (56%)
- Make support available if needed (46%)
- Make it easier to complete all needs online (44%)
It’s clear we want to find relevant information when we want it and when we need it. When we can’t find something—we want help quickly. When asked to rank how help was best provided—online chat support was a top choice (48%), followed by phone (30%) and e-mail (16%). Respondents expected a curated digital experience akin to what they experience on commercial sites.