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Smart Cities Need To Deliver Smart Citizen Engagement

Published on May 13, 2016 at 5:39 am in Blog

A recent Frost & Sullivan survey found that improvement in citizen engagement is a major objective for leading “smart” cities in Europe, with 70% of respondents saying that engagement was a focus of their data-centric projects. Also, over 50% said they had already created online tools using mobile apps and social media for citizens to report issues of concern.

Today’s municipality is much more than a provider of local services. It is increasingly a competitor in the global economy—for jobs, investment and skilled workers. To achieve economic growth it must provide an environment that is attractive for all its stakeholders.

In this context, local authorities increasingly recognize the need to engage more closely with citizens to deliver better public services. Engagement is a greater priority today, at least partly, because citizens demand levels of service that they already expect from many companies in the private sector—if not better. Cities recognize that they need to be seen as responsive, accountable, efficient and modern. To do so, they are adapting and responding to broader trends in the way people choose to interact and communicate.

New evidence highlights the five pillars of citizen engagement investment decisions

Together with Frost & Sullivan, Altitude Software researched and identified five pillars on which cities should base their citizen engagement investment decisions—from self-service tools that meet the need for convenience and savings, to citizen-centric design that provides a consistent information model, from the public-facing interface to the contact center.

Pillar 1: Promote engagement through self-service tools – Providing convenient, self-service channels such as mobile apps, kiosks and Web-based FAQs are one way to control costs. At the same time, the public sector wants to avoid being perceived by citizens as being “faceless” or overly “corporate.” Front-line services and direct face-to-face interaction are preferable in some circumstances, and contact centers should be in place, but will never be a complete substitute for face-to-face interaction.

Pillar 2: Track private-sector trends in channel preferences – Frost & Sullivan expects the public sector to experience the same channel-preference trends as are observed in the commercial market. Their 2014 survey of over 400 contact center decision makers found that they expect use of Web self-service portals, social media, mobile apps and chat to increase from 2014 to 2016. In contrast, live agent interaction, email and IVR show declines or are essentially flat.

Pillar 3: Publish engagement data to highlight responsiveness – Cities should be able to track and optimize their citizen engagement performance over time. This is vital as more cities are committing to open up their internal data via community portals and to other government departments. Making these performance metrics visible to citizens reinforces engagement and the perception that the municipality is accountable and transparent.

Pillar 4: Use engagement data to optimize service delivery – Over time, the city can build up a profile of the individual citizen-as-customer concerns and needs, based on their queries. Aggregate metrics are then collated to understand needs based on underlying trends that might not otherwise be visible. Additionally, performance black spots can be identified and analyzed.

Pillar 5: Put the citizen at the center of design – Cities need a centralized, integrated perspective of citizen’s needs and interactions. But the benefits of such a perspective will not be fully realized if the organization charged with responding is itself fragmented into silos. Citizen engagement initiatives cannot thrive in isolation. An organization that wants to be able to map its customer journeys and to deliver omnichannel engagement must align its processes and integrate the data flows.

Madrid reports positive results from omnichannel citizen engagement

A good example of a positive evolution is the city of Madrid. It has reported positive results from its investment in quality of service across all its citizen engagement channels. Linea Madrid is the local authority’s brand name for its frontline offices and phone line (010 service), and has developed over time to encompass websites, mobile apps and Twitter accounts. Linea Madrid’s catalogue lists over 140 services, each with up to five communications options – public service center, Web, 010 phone line, Twitter and mobile app. The goal is that the citizen should receive the same quality of response from whichever channel of communication they choose.

Madrid appointed Ferrovial Servicios to manage the service with the objective to improve engagement, while also lowering associated costs. Ferrovial deployed an omnichannel suite of contact center solutions from Altitude Software. One year later, Linea Madrid reported an increase in the number of processes handled online of over 50%, and increased interaction via phone and face to face. Although all forms of interaction increased, the company was nonetheless able to deliver €1.7 million in savings.

In the end, no matter what is the solution, citizens should be able to quickly reach the right people or be directed to access the right information. Crucially, they should feel that their issues are progressing or being resolved, however they choose to interact. Public-sector organizations gain from streamlined operations and access to a single view of customer information. This enables them to match levels of customer service that consumers have come to expect from beste practices in the private sector.

Note: you can click here to download our free White Paper – “Omni-channel Citizen Engagement: A Foundation for Growth”- and learn about the five pillars on which cities should base their citizen engagement investment decisions.


Alfredo Redondo

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