Most constituents will only think about their local government under two circumstances: one, to complain about a pothole or a tax increase and, two, when they need to interact with government agencies to apply for a license or a permit or human services. In the first case, constituents usually chalk it up to the inevitable “death and taxes.” But when it comes to the latter – interacting with government for services – there’s a lot that can be done to make this a better experience.
With a paper-based government, these interactions always start with the need to submit documents and information to initiate a process. This is followed by department reviews, collaboration and communication, and finally a decision or a completion of the interaction.
Over the course of our lives, we do this again and again. And, while it is interesting for agencies to talk about engagement platforms, social media and apps, the stuff of local government is in these thousands of transactions that document and govern our lives. To be a responsive and trusted institution, local government needs to be both open and efficient, and it can be argued that the most profound way to positively impact that equation is to make those thousands of transactions move faster, make them easier and have them happen in the most convenient way possible for the constituent.
Lofty ideas, but there are four easy steps to make this happen. And the nice part is that they will positively impact your internal efficiency while making today’s and tomorrow’s constituents very pleased.
- Don’t make constituents complete paper forms. This is everything we all hate about government, even those of us that work for government.
- Don’t make staff type data from paper forms or pass them around to get their work done. This is one of the worst tasks you can assign to anyone. Data entry can also be error-prone, and you probably don’t have enough staff to complete this time-consuming task. Eliminating this means freeing up staff time and faster process.
- Don’t make staff or your constituents have to call for status updates. This is hard on your staff and the caller, it interrupts the staff trying to process the request and forces your constituents to call when they might be working and have little time to wait for an answer.
- Don’t make constituents come to your offices to interact with their government. This is good advice whether you have a rural county or you are trying to grapple with the heightened expectations of a new generation of constituents. People consume and expect to find things on websites and through apps on their smartphones.
Lists are great for blogs, but it may seem impossible for a local government to make these changes. It would require paradigm shifts and technology investments. But what if you could purchase one technology solution to support this list?
While there are many solutions that could help with parts of this list, enterprise content management (ECM) can handle it all, and many more potential projects to improve your constituent service. There is always a temptation to buy a department solution or the latest technology trend or tool. But going paperless and being able to automate processes, create web-based services and forms – this is where ECM excels.
So, as you look for the efficiency and constituent experience that will define your leadership, consider ECM as a platform for you to change their experience for the better.