Your web browser is out of date. Update your browser for more security, speed and the best experience on this site.

Update your browser
CapTech Home Page

Articles June 29, 2023

It’s Time to Elevate the Citizen Experience

Coe Sherrard Bree Basham
Coe Sherrard, Bree Basham

Better Experiences Are Better for Everyone

All citizens rely on government services for some measure of support. It’s a lifeline for unemployment and disability benefits, a sanctuary for healthcare assistance and disaster relief. For some, interacting with the public sector is an occasional errand. For others, it’s an everyday necessity. And while those experiences vary in frequency and purpose, one thing has never been clearer: elevating those experiences is imperative.

Analogous to the customer experience, the citizen experience is a person’s perception of government based on the accumulation of all their interactions with a government agency. Everything from researching license requirements to applying for food vouchers makes up this experience, and the more challenging these interactions are, the more difficult it is for citizens to be successful and happy in their daily life.

When a company provides customers with challenging experiences, they can switch to a competitor. They don’t have to settle for inaccessible services and overcomplicated information and processes. They have a choice. When a government agency provides challenging experiences, people have nowhere else to turn.

It’s this absence of choice that is the true test of a provider’s character. When people must use your service, it’s tempting to conclude there is no incentive in elevating it. But beyond simply doing good for goodness sake, better experiences lead to a cascade of benefits for governments and the people they serve.

Seamless, user-friendly interactions that offer clear and concise instructions, intuitive design, and faster, more flexible navigation can:

  • Enhance public perception
  • Build trust and respect
  • Increase employee morale and retention
  • Spend tax dollars more efficiently
  • Meet the equity expectations of your constituents

      Embracing the Digital Mindset

      Seamless digital experiences are built upon strong technical foundations and driven by data. Working in tandem with advanced analytics and omnichannel execution, these capabilities enable dynamic, predicative, and personalized interactions that lead to more meaningful outcomes for citizens on both sides of the counter.

      The private sector began heavily investing in digital transformation knowing that happier, more successful customers would lead to improved brand reputation and more satisfied and productive employees. By elevating the citizen experience, the public sector will reap the same rewards.

      An elevated citizen experience is one where citizens can quickly and easily:

      • Find the right information
      • Digest complex information
      • Complete transactions online
      • Navigate between devices and platforms

      When agencies prioritize these needs, good things happen. Offices see less foot traffic and call centers see less volume. Employees achieve more pleasant and productive interactions with citizens, and citizens feel more valued, reassured, and confident. Public perception improves, employee morale rises, and the people the government serves are happier, healthier, and safer.

      Elevating these experiences is perfectly doable, and it starts by diagnosing what citizens of all backgrounds and circumstances need when using government agency platforms, as well as acknowledging the frustrations or difficulties they may have experienced.

      Putting Yourself in a Citizen’s Shoes

      A foundational pillar of world-class digital experiences is the customer profile – a snapshot of an organization’s ideal user. Customer profiles include demographic data such as age, location, and income, as well as emotional characteristics like goals, motivations, challenges, and pain points. They tell you who a customer is, why they do what they do, and why they feel what they feel.

      Working hand in hand with profiles are customer journeys, the visual storylines of every interaction a customer has with a brand, product, or service. From scrolling past an advertisement to filling out a form, understanding a customer’s journey is essential to improving their overall experience.

      To create a virtual environment in which citizens can easily and efficiently engage with their government, profiles and journeys must live at the heart of every decision. Agencies must make every effort to answer important questions, like:

      • What are our citizens’ wants, needs, and friction points?
      • Where do they get hung up, lost, and frustrated?
      • How do we develop solutions that work for a vast and diverse user base?

      By understanding your citizens at an emotional level and putting yourself in their shoes for their entire journey – not just your face-to-face interactions – agencies can build holistic, accurate, context-aware profiles of who they’re serving, and map journeys that reveal how they’re serving them, and how they can best help them reach success.

      Listening to Data to Build Citizen-Centered Digital Experiences

      Building holistic profiles and journeys requires a 360-degree view of a citizen’s data. Only then can you uncover behavior patterns, understand those patterns within their larger context, and tailor digital interactions that actually connect to and benefit your citizens.

      Data can be found wherever people interact with your organization. They’re telling you what they need with every click, scroll, search, and communication. You can compile data from social media, call centers, websites, apps, and conduct further research by soliciting customer feedback directly from the people you serve, through:

      • Customer surveys
      • Focus studies
      • Workshops
      • User testing
      • Content testing

      A 360-degree view connects the dots and helps you envision how to solve the right problems in the smartest way.

      Elevated Citizen Experiences in Action

      Below are two different scenarios. By studying their interactions with governments agencies, we can better understand how to elevate their citizen experiences.

      Persona #1: Mr. Tran’s New Business

      Following his passion for the outdoors, Mr. Tran moves to a new state to start his own outdoor recreation business.

      To organize his new life, Mr. Tran must engage in multiple interactions with the government, including:

      • Registering his car with the Department of Transportation
      • Obtaining a new driver’s license with the Department of Motor Vehicles
      • Researching property taxes and applicable laws, municipalities, and programs to prepare to buy a house
      • Researching his recreation passions and how to purchase a state park pass, what outdoor programs and services exist, and how to sign up

      Mr. Tran then starts preparing to open his business by:

      • Registering his new business with the Secretary of State
      • Obtaining parks passes, fishing license, and off-highway vehicle and snow mobile registrations
      • Applying for a license with parks service to be a concessionaire, allowing him to run tours on public land 
      • Researching workers’ compensation, payroll tax, and other employer requirements

        During this new stage in Mr. Tran’s life, he initiated numerous interactions with his local and state government. That’s a lot of work for Mr. Tran, and considering the stress of moving and starting a new business, we bet Mr. Tran would be grateful if the entire process were easier.

        How Could the Government Elevate Mr. Tran’s Citizen Experience?

        Like nearly every new resident, Mr. Tran had to visit the DMV, a notoriously difficult government agency to interact with. To elevate this experience, his government could invest in a refresh of its DMV web presence to help streamline Mr. Tran’s DMV interactions.

        Persona #2: Ms. Johnson’s Work Injury

        Ms. Johnson was injured at work and is now unable to do her job, but as the head of her household, she is still responsible for taking care of her family.

        To continue providing for her family, Ms. Johnson must engage in multiple interactions with the government, including:

        • Working with her employer to submit a workers’ compensation claim to provide for the temporary loss of income
        • Applying for state-provided physical and vocational rehabilitation services to speed her recovery and prepare her to transition back into the workforce in a new skill
        • Seeking temporary housing assistance to help with near-term mortgage payments, while her workers’ compensation claim is in progress

        Not only does Ms. Johnson have to interact with her government on multiple fronts just to keep her job and a roof over her head, she has to do it all while injured. Her government has an obligation to make the process as painless as possible.

        How Could the Government Elevate Ms. Johnson’s Citizen Experience?

        Applying for workers’ compensation requires multiple parties to interact with the government. To avoid miscommunications, errors, and confusion, Ms. Johnson’s government could invest in a single, centralized workers’ compensation portal that demystifies and streamlines the process for all involved.

        How CapTech Elevated Similar Experiences

        Refreshing the Virginia DMV Website

        For years, Virginia citizens have had the option to skip the line and complete many common transactions, like registering a vehicle or renewing a driver's license, directly on the Virginia DMV website. But many didn’t know it, and those who did faced disorganized navigation, hard-to-find information, and poorly explained processes. Virginia DMV recognized the need to transform its existing website into a true digital front door that offered a simple, seamless, and connected experience at every major touchpoint of a customer’s journey, and tapped CapTech for help.

        Our strategy was two-fold: 1) Overhaul their website with a new design, streamlined information architecture, and optimized content to help citizens quickly and easily find what they need and make in-person appointments more productive, 2) Raise awareness of common online services and transactions to increase user success and reduce lines at Customer Service Centers.

        Through holistic customer profiles and journeys, as well as information architecture and content reviews, SEO assessments, and content, theme, and messaging testing, CapTech:

        • Delivered a comprehensive component library and design style guide that are both WCAG 2.1 conformant to maintain consistency and accessibility throughout the site. 
        • Optimized 60 pages of content for better readability, structure, and SEO to increase user success and online transactions.
        • Decreased Time on Task by 30% through usability testing with the goal of reducing customer frustration, lowering call center volume, and driving more transactions.
        • Conducted content testing on five marquee pages and turned feedback into recommendations for actionable improvements sitewide.
        • Created informative, emotionally resonant marketing messaging across 20 campaign assets to build internal advocacy, spread awareness, and drive action.

        With improved visuals, streamlined navigation, and clearer, more instructional content that is easy to follow and anticipates user questions, Virginia DMV will be able to give valuable time back to customers while easing the burden on employees. Upon launch, the marketing campaign will encourage current and future Virginia residents to hop online, not in line, so they can spend more time on what matters most to them.

        Overhauling the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Portal

        Faced with an outdated worker’s compensation portal, injured Minnesotan workers were struggling to navigate and successfully complete their claims process. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) partnered with CapTech to modernize the digital experience for injured workers and those who support them, as well as employers and claims adjusters, while making the process more understandable for DLI employees.

        Our three priorities were to create an elevated citizen experience that would: 1) Allow external stakeholders data access to improve service delivery, 2) Provide transparency into the claims process for injured employees, and 3) Enable their agency to use data to drive downstream processes to proactively address sources of injury.

        Through in-depth user research, requirements gathering and testing, and wireframing and prototyping, CapTech:

        • Created a user-friendly, data-driven online workers’ compensation portal that improves support to injured workers and provides greater insight into claims and disputes for stakeholders.
        • Implemented 1,500 requirements for over fifteen development cycles over a two-year period, including a full Regression Test, Security Test, Performance Test, Accessibility Test, and End-to-End.
        • Led over 3,000 agency employees and external stakeholders through business process and end user training sessions.

        As a result, employees and stakeholders can now log onto a single self-serve application to better understand claim activity, reducing wait times and anxiety over claim status uncertainty.

        Looking Ahead

        Reorienting your technological approach to serve citizens with greater speed, efficiency, and transparency will, simply put, improve lives. It’s not just an imperative, it’s an opportunity, and many agencies across the country are already making it a priority.

        But why stop there? Twenty years ago, the idea of an elevated citizen experience might have seemed like a fantasy. The technology wasn’t where it is today; everyone didn’t have a smart phone in their pocket and a laptop on their desk. So, when rethinking the citizen experience, ask yourself What seems like a fantasy today? Because it could be a reality tomorrow.

        Imagine true data consolidation, where government agencies across the country thought of themselves as a single organization. Together, they could seamlessly connect disparate information and created a single source of truth for every citizen’s data. Imagine if, no matter where a person went, whether it was to a DMV in Oregon or an unemployment office in New York, whether they were a doctor or a social worker or a chef or a freelance artist, they were treated exactly the same.

        If the systems were unified and data could be shared, agencies could build a complete picture of each citizen and truly understand how best to reach them, treat them, and help them thrive.

        This might not be feasible today, but by changing what we can now, we can pave the way for bigger changes in the future.