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10 Tips For Improving Digital Experiences

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At the end of April, GovDelivery hosted its 9th Annual Digital Communications Summit. This event brought together over a thousand government and industry leaders to learn about the citizen experience from experts. Attendees left with real-world strategies to help their agencies make a difference. Thursday’s webinar with Scott Burns, CEO and Co-Founder of GovDelivery, and Steve Ressler, Chief Marketing Officer of GovDelivery and President of GovLoop, condensed the summit into a series of video clips highlighting key digital experience strategies.

The first tip is take action to make a difference. In the keynote presentation, Fred Larson, a Customer and Patient-Center Advocate with public and private sector experience, shared a story about his time at Walter Reed. When he was in charge of the center, a woman came up to him and angrily demanded a wheelchair for her son. Larson agreed to bring a wheelchair to her son’s room, and when he arrived, he saw that the young man had lost both of his legs to an IED. His mother had to pick up her life in Iowa to move to DC to take care of her son, and no one had talked to her how to deal with this shift. Larson took it upon himself to talk to this woman and her son every day, a simple action that made a huge difference in their lives.

The second tip is focus on digital. Natatlie Fedie, the Vice President of Client Success and Professional Services at GovDelivery, emphasized the impact that digital communications and services can have on citizens. For example, Veteran Affairs’ MyVA portal focuses on customers and aims to increase veterans’ access to benefits and services as well as the delivery of those services. The program has decreased the backlog of claims applications, provided timely access to medical care, and more. Using digital access and communications strategies increased the agility, flexibility, and speed of the program.

The third tip is use data to optimize outreach. Anthony Calabrese, Senior Advisor and Team Lead for Healthcare.gov, discussed how his team used data to drive and enhance their citizen outreach. His lessons learned include focusing on the engagement funnel, being specific about affordability and other benefits, and providing people with social proof. In addition, his team determined that personalization and mobile access also help improve communications and outreach.

The fourth tip is make data-driven decisions. At the General Services Administration, Anahita Reilly, Deputy Chief Customer Officer, bases decisions on actual data about her organization’s customers. This includes developing a voice of the customer based on existing and new quantitative and qualitative data. They then take this information to drive decisions to adopt new policies. Feedback on those changes will then drive future action, creating a cycle where customer opinions drive new action.

The fifth tip is engage, understand, and open your data. Adam Kriesberg, a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Library, and Andrew Hoppin, President of GovDelivery Open Data Solutions, talked about the importance of understanding who will be using your data. Understanding their needs and standards will help you create an effective, user-friendly program. In addition, it is important to understand that when you open your data to the public, remarkable insights can occur, which can then help you do your job better.

The sixth tip is value incremental actions. Burns recommended moving from a “touchdown focus” to a “first down focus.” While end goals are important, it can be challenging to work towards that goal without a structure. Instead, using a first down approach can help you achieve your desired goal by first establishing intermediary milestones. This can relate to everything from Disney’s business model to event registration to government trainings.

The seventh tip is build citizen experiences over time. Michelle Lee, Product Manager at GovDelivery, discussed the importance of language in citizen experiences. This boils down to two pieces. First, the individual pieces of the digital strategy must be simple; and second, the pieces must be connected within and across engagement sessions. For example, messages written at a third-grade level have the highest open and engagement rates. In addition, when citizens understand what is going on, they are happier, even if it’s not the answer they want.

The eighth tip is make trainings actionable and convenient. Andrew Krzmarzick, Vice President of Learning and Development at GovDelivery, highlighted examples of online trainings that work to engage audiences in actionable and convenient ways. First is Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign online trainings, which help citizens identify and act upon signs of human trafficking. To reach external audiences, there is a campaign to push for training completion, including digital badges and discussion forums. The Federal Highway Administration used a flipped-classroom approach where attendees watched informational videos and brought that knowledge to a conversation with their peers.

The ninth tip is follow the maturity model. Fedie provided a framework for improving your agency’s digital engagement strategy. The framework includes building capabilities in six key areas: people, audience, solutions, outcomes, data, and security. Maximize each area by asking questions: Do your people have the right skills? Are you using data to drive decisions? Do you know what your goals are? Do you know whom you want to reach? What tools are you using? Do they meet federal security standards?

The tenth tip is focus on results. Instead of focusing on how—technology, design, digital services—Burns recommended focusing on the result, which is always improving lives. Everything else is just the means to that end. This can help the organization for your agency. Instead of organization everything about individual tools or strategies, focus everything around the end goal of changing and improving lives.

The webinar also included a bonus tip: Connect with others. Digital experiences are all about connections, and Larson encouraged everyone to think about whom they can connect with, whom they are at odds with, whom they do not understand. Find these people, and take time to listen, understand, connect, and help where you can.

For more information on these tips and the Q&A session, check out the full webinar here. In addition, you can read the event recaps for the summit here. The full speaker videos will be available soon.