If customer experience were a king, then government offices would be the lowliest peasant. The Customer Experience Index from Forrester Research ranks government last in customer experience, behind 21 other industries, according to a report by Nextgov.
With such a sour reputation, government offices clearly need a boost; kiosks can be a key component in providing it as part of an omnichannel experience.
One issue that brings down the quality of government service is simply a matter of numbers. Too many people need services and too few employees are available to help them.
"The number of people needing government services continues to grow, and the number of people delivering those services continues to shrink, due to limited or sometimes nonexistent hiring budgets," Terri McClelland, CEO of DynaTouch, told Kiosk Marketplace in an email. "DynaTouch has seen this since we introduced kiosk technology to our government customers over 25 years ago."
Time is a key factor in customer experience, but without enough employees or technology to go around, customers have to wait.
"Most people value their time more than anything," McClelland said. "So a kiosk that speeds up a customer service process will obviously improve the customer experience. Any service area where there are a lot of walk-in customers can benefit from a kiosk."
Any number of technologies, including kiosks, mobile apps and online services, can help government offices win the numbers game by providing additional outlets where customers can take care of needs such as car tag renewal or bill payment.
Though some might assume that online services and mobile apps would eliminate the need for kiosks, this isn't necessarily the case. Kiosks can be one of several important elements in the omnichannel experience.
"Kiosks that provide secure access to online services are also becoming very popular in government agencies. Most are investing heavily in their websites to deliver online services, as they should," McClelland said. "However, a lot of customers walk into a government office looking for services that they didn’t realize were now available online.
"Rather than [being turned] away, they are directed to a secure, public-access kiosk to be introduced to new online service and to use it for the first time."
Many of these customers — especially those in rural eras — might not be highly tech savvy. This makes it especially important to deploy kiosks that are functional, available and user friendly. The kiosk needs to provide clear instructions and a staff member nearby to explain the process, if necessary. A high quality user interface is important, too.
"A kiosk with a great [user interface] can perform multiple tasks for the user in a single location," Manny Almeida, division president at Fujifilm North American Corp., pointed out in a previous Kiosk Marketplace story. "This can result in a better user experience in dealing with transactions. There is potential for cost savings by having kiosks available outside of normal operating hours, reducing lines and user frustrations in waiting in those lines."
In addition, the kiosk must comply with the American Disabilities Act and Section 508. LinkNYC Wi-Fi kiosks have come under fire recently for not being fully compliant with protocols to aid blind users. "There's a lot more to it than just the physical dimensions of the kiosk and providing access to those who are in wheelchairs, or those who have prosthetic limbs," McClelland said.
There's availability to consider, as well. A location should have an adequate number of kiosks to meet customer demand, or the result is another long customer wait. It can also be important to deploy kiosks places besides the government office itself. It's usually easier for a consumer to take care of tasks like pay city utility bills or renewing tabs while out shopping than to carve out time for a special trip to an administrative office.
Finally, it's important to determine the effectiveness of the kiosk through customer feedback.
"If you can measure something, you can improve it," McClelland said. "Point-of-service surveys provide real-time feedback that can help management pinpoint where government service operations are working well … and where they need improvement."
When combined with online services and apps, kiosks can help turn around the poor reputation of a government office with consumers.
"In the past, walking into a government office to obtain services was often a dreadful customer experience," McClelland said. "That trend is changing, thanks to kiosk technology."
/ Bradley Cooper is a Technology Editor for DigitalSignageToday.com. His background is in information technology, advertising, and writing.