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Be heard, be useful: keys to effective communication

In the digital age, government departments are interacting with citizens online more than ever. Digital services can offer better, more innovative and exciting ways to interact with citizens.

With the federal government introducing efficiency dividends, with the aim to save $569 million over the next four years, online services are going to be more important than ever to provide savings and empower digital citizenry.

However, many users don’t even know what services departments actually provide.

Reveal your purpose

A department’s digital portal is the main opportunity to make it clear what purpose your organisation serves, who it helps and how, says Cameron Ord, ACT Sales Manager for Sitecore.

“A lot of agencies out there [on their website] talk about themselves as an organisation; but the only thing customers care about is what they can do,” says Ord.

The Queensland Urban Utilities website is one Ord points to as excelling at communicating their services to people online.

“Visitors to that site are immediately asked what they want to do, with a full list of services to choose from,” says Ord. “Immediately, the customer’s needs are the focus and they’re openly showing that they want to help.”

Self-service options

Online self-services can help improve access to information for citizens, achieve outcomes as efficiently as possible and can improve relationships between agencies and the citizens they serve, he says. Even if interactions take place across a range of digital channels, “the agency understands that you’re the same person, regardless of when, where and how you’re interacting with them,” says Ord.

But self-service tools must serve a clear purpose, whether it’s reducing call centre costs or improving information access for citizens. The key to improving self-service facilities and working out what tools are needed, says Ord, is listening to what citizens want.

Online surveys and user trend analysis can help uncover the tasks that most citizens will want to fulfil online.

“Some of the best examples of self-service I’ve seen are where organisations have implemented changes based on customer behaviour or actual feedback,” says Ord. He points to reforms made by Water Corporation in WA who acted on survey feedback from over 800 customers.

A personal approach

Tying citizen data sources together in one self-service website can help create one accurate profile for each citizen and help to serve them better.

“The best example of a genuine, one-stop-shop integrated platform, for me, would be AGL,” says Ord. “They consolidated 50 separate websites into one, which now integrates with their CMS, apps, SAP and other business systems.”

This one-stop-shop approach can help personalise messages for citizens, which will not only increase relevancy, but can also help citizens to find the content they need more quickly.

And, Ord says, personalising messaging for citizens is not as hard as it sounds.

“The key to simplifying personalisation is having the ability to target anonymous audiences,” he says. “You can still segment users by persona, but you don’t necessarily need to know exactly who they are; instead, personas can be based on an inferred demographic, online behaviour or user intent.”

However, since people adapt and change, personalisation strategies also need to be able to adapt when necessary, Ord says.

Personalisation is more than adding a few bells and whistles or extra options to your organisation’s website, it’s about changing the way you approach your interactions with citizens.

“When I mention personalisation, I’ll often hear government agencies claim they’re already doing it,” says Ord. “But further questioning reveals that they’re actually making simple programmatic changes such as adding service details to portals.

“Personalisation isn’t programmatic: it’s behavioural.”

Sitecore has invited New York Times bestselling author and Canadian digital marketing expert, Jay Baer, to Australia to present his world famous talk, Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help Not Hype, as part of Sitecore’s Digital Survivor Roadshow. Baer will be speaking in Canberra on Monday August 24.

To attend, visit: http://www.sitecore.net/youtility

Written by: Jacob Robinson

Author Bio

The Mandarin

The Mandarin staff journalists.