Creating a virtual service culture for government

Virtual channels for government services must go beyond real world standards

Tags: ChatbotCustomer experienceCustomer serviceUnited Arab Emirates
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Creating a virtual service culture for government Alternate channels need to be better than real world channels to attract users. (ITP Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  October 15, 2017

In September, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, made two important announcements for the future of services delivery and customer service in government entities in Dubai.

The first was the inauguration of Services 1, a new high tech government services centre. Services 1 utilises AI, robotics and other new technologies to deliver government services - acting as showcase, testbed and actual delivery centre.

The second announcement was a ‘Day without Service Centres', one day where all government in-person payment transactions will cease and users will be directed to alternative channels. The intention of these initiatives is clear - to move citizens and residents to using virtual channels, apps, websites and self-service solutions, to engage with government services.

There is consumer interest in alternative channels. A recent Accenture Survey shows that 76% of end users in the UAE are comfortable with AI customer service applications, compared to 62% globally. Users are also stating a preference for AI advisors over humans, with 82% saying they like the anytime availability; 74% stating politeness of response and 74% saying speed of service as benefits.

The interest in alternate channels might have something to do with the service culture in the UAE, which frankly often has a lot of room for improvement, across public and private sector. But it also bodes well for government efforts to shift to alternate channels.

Government sector cannot ignore these new channels either. Government, has a duty to control costs, and is also appropriate to create jobs for citizens that are meaningful - manning a front line customer service desk doesn't necessarily fit that description.

However, the provision of alternate channels and AI service bots does not mean government can be absolved of the responsibility of talking to customers. There are a huge number of variables that need to be considered for a successful service channel, whether app, kiosk or social media chatbot.

The underlying infrastructure, from security of the solution, through authentication, stability and availability must be sound; factors such as interface design, accessibility for disabled users, quality of support and ease of use are vital to make services welcoming, attractive and inclusive for users. Education and support are vital for initial roll outs. Alternative channels need a great deal of design, planning and investment to get them right.

Alternate channels are a valuable part of the services mix, but like any digital initiative, successful execution will require attention to detail, thorough testing and considerate action to get users  onboard and to make the shift to alternate channels a pleasant experience.

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