Improving the Citizen Experience with Real-Time Data

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Improving the Citizen Experience with RealTime Data industry perspective

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executive summary T

imely and actionable data can tell us a lot about our government, the citizens it serves and whether federal programs are effectively meeting their needs. Not only that, but data can also capture the sentiments of rank-and-file employees who fuel those services and programs. The ability to capitalize on those valuable insights has been an uphill battle for agencies. They face a pervasive lack of real-time information, which means that knowledge isn’t readily available for decision-makers, who are tasked with improving citizen services. To break this cycle, agencies must shift their focus from simply gathering large amounts of raw data to collecting actionable data, from the right person, at the time, and most importantly on the channel they are engaged in, otherwise known as fast data. That means moving beyond just compiling months’ and years’ worth of data to instead collecting just enough data that is needed to enable timely action and to tell a complete story about the overall improvement of the citizen experience. “It’s not a race to see how much information you can collect, which is oftentimes what big data turns into,” said Dr. Kyle Groff, Principal Research Scientist – VoC (Voice of the Citizen) at Qualtrics. Government agencies know how important feedback is to improving services. The roadblock? There has not been a systemic and consistent approach to gathering and acting on that feedback in an efficient and scalable manner across government programs. The biggest hurdle for agencies isn’t so much collecting data, but rather ensuring that data is quickly gathered, expeditiously analyzed and used to drive improvements to citizen services. “Organizations of all stripes are just recognizing the need for feedback,” said Trevor DeLew, who heads the Federal Government Team at Qualtrics. “Government organizations are beginning to understand they can operate better with citizen and employee feedback. What I think they lack is the enabling technology to do it right, efficiently and fast, and in a way that citizens immediately feel and see the improvement.” That’s why GovLoop joined forces with experts at Qualtrics, a rapidly growing Software-as-a-Service company and a leader in customer insights, to produce this report. In this industry perspective we address some of the current constraints to improving citizen services, such as data and organizational siloes, as well as steps agencies can take to better meet citizens’ needs. But first, let’s start by identifying some of the challenges agencies face when using data to improve services.

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pain points to improving citizen services


acting on timely data


Consider the array of digital services rolling out across government, such as College Scorecard, a website that enables users to find and compare schools; and myUSCIS, a new online service that helps users navigate the immigration process. These types of services are constantly iterating, and in some cases agencies can collect feedback from user surveys. But the issue is that they’re often collecting feedback with tools and processes that take months to make data consumable for those who are building the services. DeLew highlighted one Qualtrics customer in particular that was collecting 350,000 responses a month from people who used the agency’s digital service. About a dozen full-time people were tasked with analyzing the response data. By the time the data was consumable, the agency had already made numerous changes to the services, so they couldn’t correlate feedback to specific improvements. And this isn’t an isolated issue within a single agency. Currently, this agency relies on Qualtrics to provide access to feedback for all stakeholders in real time. This has resulted in the agency taking action and implementing the improvements in hours of collecting the feedback. “It’s impossible for government to improve when it is making decisions using data that is at best six months old,” DeLew said. In many cases, data is either left dormant and not immediately analyzed, or there’s so much data that it takes months to process the information and get it to the right people. To close that gap and build confidence with citizens that improvements are based on actual feedback, agencies need access to a modern system that makes real-time data widely accessible. Once they receive that data, they also need the ability to make sense of it and to better understand citizen sentiments.

extracting value from benchmarks Often, agencies get benchmark scores once or twice a year that tell them how they did in a particular area. But there is little feedback or context around why they received a particular score or grade. “Benchmarks are very valuable,” DeLew said. “But they’re only actionable if you understand the point in time and what was happening when people provided those scores. Current benchmarks that the government relies on don’t enable that.” Here’s another way of putting it: Let’s say you studied for an exam for months, and you received a C-. But there were no markings on the test showing what you got right and what you got wrong. To make matters worse, you did not get your results back until six months after you took the exam. How would you improve your grade the next time? It would be nearly impossible. That’s the same issue the government faces when receiving feedback data only once or twice a year instead of in real time, when it could truly affect its decisions.

Benchmarks are very valuable. But they’re only actionable if you understand the point in time and what was happening when people provided those scores. Current benchmarks that the government relies on don’t enable that.” Trevor DeLew Head of Federal Government Team at Qualtrics

4 Industry Perspective

building a voice of the citizen program


seeing the citizen’s perspective We’ve all been there: An agency or company asks for our feedback, but when we provide that feedback, it seems to fall on deaf ears. The reality is that’s a systematic flaw in government that robs credibility from the feedback process. Think about it: Why would citizens provide feedback to agencies if they believe that nothing is done with it? They don’t, and the result is agencies are left to guess whether they’re meeting constituents’ needs. One of the first steps to solving this issue is to view the citizen experience from the citizen’s perspective. That involves understanding how citizens use your service, what issues they have and what their expectations are for the quality of those services. “That mindset is often missing not just in the federal government but in a lot of industries,” DeLew said. To fully embrace the citizen’s perspective, agencies need to drill down into their satisfaction scores until they reach the point where that data is actionable. They may know how well they’re serving citizens at the highest level, but that doesn’t allow them to drill down and fix things, Groff said. He explained how Qualtrics worked with JetBlue to understand its satisfaction scores for a certain flight. The company looked at satisfaction scores around that flight, at a specific time of day, at a specific gate. Customers weren’t happy about concessions being closed for morning flights, which meant they couldn’t buy coffee. Taking action on something as simple as ensuring coffee was available for those early flights allowed JetBlue to turn around the entire experience and improve its scores. “I would surmise that at the federal level, there are situations like this that exist, where agencies may not need a complete overhaul of a process, product or service,” Groff said. “The solution could be something very small that needs to be tweaked. For example, it could be a website experience issue, or paperwork that needs to be vetted that could turn around and impact the overall experience for an entire agency.”

The ability for agencies to have a two-way conversation with millions of citizens who rely on them is invaluable. When citizens want to interact with the government through a specific channel, whether via phone, website or in person, everyone who’s involved in delivering that service must have real-time access to data that empowers them to effectively do their job. That’s what a Voice of the Citizen, or VoC program, is all about. “The Voice of the Citizen, to us, means providing insightful data that is actionable and impactful for citizens,” said Josh Ellars, who heads the State & Local Government Team at Qualtrics. “It’s not about checking a box that you bought the right technology and that you’re collecting satisfaction metrics only. It’s really about what you’re doing with that information to actually improve the experience of citizens.” In its VoC Starter Kit, Qualtrics notes that the starting point for building any feedback program is taking a systematic approach to identifying what you need to measure. This applies to both new programs as well as existing programs that might be in need of a refresh. From there, you’ll need to determine how you’ll collect feedback for each touchpoint. As was the case with defining what you want to measure, taking a systematic approach to identifying the right channels and then testing and iterating on that process will ensure your VoC program is optimally collecting feedback. Lastly, the data you collect and measure must be incorporated into a robust reporting and action program. “You have to have all these pieces in place so that the program functions properly,” Ellars said.

The Voice of the Citizen, to us, means providing insightful data that is actionable and impactful for citizens.” Josh Ellars Head of State & Local Government Team at Qualtrics Improving the Citizen Experience with Real-Time Data 5

how qualtrics can help G

overnment agencies are at various stages when it comes to mapping the entire citizen journey and establishing a timely and repeatable process for responding to internal and external feedback. In fact, there’s no shortage of data-collection platforms across departments to gather citizen feedback, but they are usually managed by different groups. This means agencies are unable to correlate across data-collection platforms. They’re hindered from making data-driven decisions about service improvements. Qualtrics provides agencies the ability to manage the complete citizen experience on a single platform. Agencies are empowered to easily capture, analyze and act on insights from citizens and employees. Below are some of the key benefits that Qualtrics offers to government agencies.

speed of understanding Agencies spend a lot of time and resources trying to understand how well they’re serving citizens. That’s in part because the tools they use to glean that information aren’t always intuitive or capable of providing real-time access to consumable and actionable data. Agencies have to move data from the platform or application where it was collected to another system for it to be analyzed and used to drive actions. It’s nearly impossible to get all of that done in a week or even a month. The data has to make multiple trips across unintegrated systems, which results in data that is latent and old. “What Qualtrics offers is a single, integrated platform that is extremely easy to use and reduces the number and cost of resources without sacrificing advanced capabilities,” DeLew said. Integrated in the Qualtrics solution are analytics capabilities and dashboards to empower decision-makers. Users can also author surveys, deploy surveys using various channels, such as websites, email or text messages, and gain an understanding of the data they’re collecting within days.

employee engagement The analysts who review citizen feedback typically know what they want to improve, but they’re incapable of implementing those changes without help from a team of individuals —mainly from the IT department. But IT experts are already stretched with daily tasks.

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“Our design intent from Day One was to make our solution extremely easy to use for all employees, including non-IT professionals,” DeLew said. “We’ve given data analysts the ability to control their destiny in the data they want, without needing an IT person or statistical expert to do it for them.”

security Many of the low-cost and easy-to-use survey tools available to agencies lack security features that meet government standards. They also lack the ability to manage who can collect certain types of information. “What happens is people often collect data using solutions and methods that have not been approved by the agency, and as a result, others are reluctant to use that data to make improvements,” DeLew said. “But more importantly, the government oftentimes can’t collect the data it needs because there’s a lack of platforms like ours that are deemed to be secure.” Qualtrics is currently having its solution vetted through the Federal Risk Authorization Management Program, or FedRAMP, a governmentwide program that provides a standardized approach for assessing the security of cloud products and services. Doing so ensures that agencies are using an approved solution that properly secures the data and access to it.

democratization of citizen insights When different groups within an agency collect data that’s relevant to them, there’s always a risk that the data will be collected in such a way that it’s only valuable to the people in those groups. The issue is further compounded when these groups are using multiple platforms and are less inclined to share the data they collect. Having a single enterprise platform that everyone across the agency has access to promotes a culture of service that puts the focus on driving better outcomes for internal and external customers. There are also benefits in releasing data to constituents. “We’ve noticed that by improving the collection and analysis of citizen insights, and making sure that some of those insights are posted publicly, civic engagement improves,” Ellars said.

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gencies need an accurate and timely understanding of effectiveness, usability, and impact of the programs they manage and the quality of services they provide. They need to ensure those services are usable, intuitive and beneficial to users of the service. Much of that insight should come directly from the citizens who use those services every day. Agencies should also look internally for input from the employees who are involved with making that service successful. There must be an understanding — at all levels of the agency — of the specific things that need to change to improve services and how all of these services impact the agency’s mission. Understanding the citizen’s entire experience — from start to finish — is vital.

Our argument at Qualtrics is that data needs to be actionable.The collection, analysis and use of data must empower agencies to improve citizen satisfaction in real time. We empower any agency to identify its unique needs and instantly deliver solutions to improve the citizen and employee experience.” Josh Ellars Head of State & Local Government Team at Qualtrics

about qualtrics

about govloop

Qualtrics is a rapidly growing software-as-a-service company and the world leader in customer insights. More than 8,500 enterprises worldwide, including more than half of the Fortune 100 and 99 of the top 100 business schools, rely on Qualtrics technology as mission critical software for business growth. Global enterprises, academic institutions and government agencies use Qualtrics to know exactly what customers want, build a customer-centric culture, and measure and respond to customer feedback at scale—all on one platform.

GovLoop’s mission is to “connect government to improve government.” We aim to inspire public-sector professionals by serving as the knowledge network for government. GovLoop connects more than 250,000 members, fostering cross-government collaboration, solving common problems and advancing government careers. GovLoop is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with a team of dedicated professionals who share a commitment to connect and improve government.

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1152 15th Street NW, Suite 800 Washington, DC 20005 Phone: (202) 407-7421 | Fax: (202) 407-7501 @GovLoop

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