How UK Government Organisations are Improving Citizen Engagement

By Kathy Kyle, Digital Communications Consultant at GovDelivery UK

According to a Capgemini/ European Commission eGovernment Benchmark report, less than half of Europeans don’t use digital government services. Despite the increase in the uptake of digital services across virtually every sector, 80 per hands raisedcent of those not using digital services for government business are simply unwilling to do so. It’s not a lack of understanding or knowledge of the services available; 63 per cent of those who don’t use eGovernment services are daily internet users.

Why are citizens shunning digital channels when it comes to dealing with the government? Over a fifth of Capgemini/ EU Commission survey respondents (28,000 EU citizens across 32 countries) think it would just be easier to not use digital channels. A third didn’t believe their query could be addressed online, and two thirds preferred personal contact. The Capgemini/ EU Commission study concludes that there is a lack of faith and trust in the government’s ability to address citizens’ issues digitally. Public satisfaction with government digital services has fallen 1.3 per cent since 2010 and citizens cite quality of service and lack of transparency as concerns, and by comparison, prefer online services provided by the banking industry.

So what does this mean for UK government organisations seeking to drive its audience online in order to achieve cost savings through channel shift and address digital by default goals? According to the Capgemini/ EU Commission study, organisations must focus on the customer, and deliver quality services that are consistent and transparent.

At GovDelivery, our clients across the globe are building public trust in government services through proactive digital communications. At Southampton City Council, residents report a 75% satisfaction rate with the Council’s email marketing channel. According to one resident, “In the past I thought the council comic was a chronic waste of taxpayers’ money rather like a 6th form project all good news and bling. I now receive various emails and they are very informative, giving depth to headlines, information about road works and waste, etc. An excellent way to keep the population informed.”

Through Southampton’s branded e-alerts systems called ‘Stay Connected’, the Council has a total of 65,281 subscribers (about 27% of the population) who subscribe to over 98,737 topics. Southampton has sent a total of 1.4 million emails (as requested by residents) since July 2012 and consistently achieves an open rate of between 25% to 60% for alerts.

In order to build public trust in eGovernment services, organisations must build trust and confidence by providing dependable, relevant, timely communications about the issues that matter most to the public. GOV.UK, another GovDelivery client, focuses on the user experience, providing “simple, clearer, faster” content on a beautifully designed website. Visitors need not search hopelessly for answers; content is direct and concise, and the public can subscribe to a myriad of topics that are relevant to their online and offline activities.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) used another email alerting service before moving to GovDelivery.  In the 6 months prior to using GovDelivery, ONS averaged 5 subscribers per day or 900 for the 6-month period.

Since moving to GovDelivery, they have averaged 51 subscribers per day with this number increasing rapidly (currently 70-90 new per day) driven by GovDelivery Network traffic.  We are working together to engage at least an additional 10,000 subscribers in the next 6 months.  That’s a 1,000% improvement on subscription rates.

According to GovLoop’s Citizen Engagement Guide, government organisations must leverage the moments when citizens seek assistance to build trust and empowerment. There are must-do, can-do and should-do moments where government has the opportunity to inform, consult, involve, collaborate and ultimately empower citizens. Both the public and government organisations literally can’t afford to miss these opportunities. To improve customer satisfaction and achieve cost savings through online services, local authorities and central government organisations must proactively reach out to citizens and offer timely communications about the services that are relevant to their lives.

Kathy Kyle is a Digital Communications Consultant at GovDeliveryUK. Contact her at kathy.kyle@govdelivery.com or via twitter @bonominiyogini.

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