Multi-channel engagement

May 13, 2010

Since this blog started I have been positing what I called, for want of a better name, a “citizen engagement exchange”. This is not purely an ICT application but a combination of system and culture. The model or conceptual framework has been on display on the site for some time. In addition, having found little or no argument against the model, I have spent some time augmenting this by examining the wider theories both in an ICT context, along with social and political ones.

Having been writing a dissertation that has nearly 600 references I have recently found further  interesting academic papers, that would support the model and I’d like to encourage a wider readership.

The first one of these is “User-centered E-Government in practice: A comprehensive model for measuring user satisfaction” by Pieter Verdegem and Gino Verleye of the University of Gent, Belgium, published in the Government Information Quarterly, Volume 26, pp 487-497. Unfortunately you’ll require access to the journal as it’s not been freely published as far as I can see. On page 490 there is the key discovery that “A conclusion from the research is that E-Government acceptance should be seen as a dynamic learning process whereby people will stick to their habits of using traditional (offline) public services unless they learn of a better electronic alternative that is offering real added value.” Something we perhaps intuitively but that the geeks won’t hear of?

On page 492 come the next lesson from them that “Many of the respondents also stress the importance of a centralized website (one-stop government) (Wimmer, 2002), in which information and services can be ranked according to different life-events. And, in addition to the online environment, an offline contact point (such as a helpdesk by telephone) seems to be of vital importance.”

We then get to some of the important recommendations on p.495 that “The absence of large-scale take-up of E-Government services could – to some extent – be explained by the fact that too much attention is given to technology as well as the governments’  tendencies to start all too often from existing ways of working (in terms of the services that are being provided).” Along with “Only when E-Government services get the same attention in terms of the quality assessment of their service delivery, will users evaluate online services of equal value as their traditional (offline) equivalents. And this is a prerequisite for stimulating not only the potential interest, but also the actual use of E-Government.”

This is  additional support for my model of a “citizen engagement exchange”, although the above paper has only dealt with the web channel and my model proposes that all channels need to be considered in parallel. This extension is something to be considered in the next blog “Multi-channel engagement – Part 2”.

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East or west, no-one answers!

January 8, 2009

Whilst I have included  the available research from the People’s Republic of China in my academic research, it appears that weuniversally struggle with citizen involvement.

 According to the China Daily News for the 6th January 2009, “Channels for public feedback remain inadequate despite government efforts in recent years to solicit more views on the ground, a survey has shown.”

According to a survey: “96.8 percent of respondents said these available channels were ineffective.”The results: “also showed lack of response from government departments and the passing of responsibility to other parties as major problems in collecting public opinion” and: “more than half of respondents said it was “very hard” to get through the hotlines and e-mails were usually ignored.”

Guo Weiqing from Sun Yat-sen University said.

“The websites are only the tools the most important thing is the mentality of government officials and whether they are willing and prepared to communicate with the public,” he said.

“The government needs a new mechanism to face public opinion,” Liu Qinglong, a professor with the School of Public Policy and Management in Tsinghua University, told China Daily. and also stated that “most local governments currently do not have effective procedures to deal with public opinion.”

In a graphic representation of the research, 37.5% preferred to visit and only 10.9% used email, whilst hotlines were used by 25.4%. A startling 50.1% got no response either through ‘phone or email and only 3.2% said they received a timely response on their feedback!

There’s obviously a universal market for the Citizen Engagement Exchange!


NI14 back in the news?

December 3, 2008

A recent survey from supplier Rostrvm included the addendum that:

“Other problems identified by the contact centres include the ambiguity of what is required (19%), the necessity of training staff to comply (11%) and preparing the back office and service support systems to handle the extra data (10%). A further 8% would struggle due to a lack of resources and time constraints. Just 4% of the local authorities surveyed did not perceive any problems preventing them from meeting the target. ”

I was actually surprised at the large numbers doing anything, although at the recent Tower NI14 event I was the only one who admitted their authority wasn’t being particularly active, I suspect I was the only one stupid enough to do so in front of the Audit Commission and Government Office!

The problem demonstrated by the survey is that in its true conception the indicator is not just for call centres and should cover all citizen contact be that face-to-face, email or web, so it needs to be dealt with as a CORPORATE issue! I wonder how many can truly say that?

 The fact that ‘avoidable contact’ or whatever is not just for call centres is proven by The ‘Half-yearly review and results summary’ of the Socitm/Govmetric Customer Access Improvement Service where on page 8 was the revelation that  not all channels are equal that whilst telephony was favoured for many there was an clear lead on the web for adult services and that in satisfaction terms the web was less satisfactory across all the services listed! This is a clear vote for Citizen Engagement Exchange to dig into the reasons why, especially when most of those using the telephone for all services were satisfied. I’m afraid the publication is for users and Socitm Insight subscribers so I can’t link to it here, but it just proves what those of us looking at the breadth of channels will have realised! It also showed just how great the web channel usage was compared with the others…despite lack of satisfaction.


Citizen Engagement Exchange

December 1, 2008

Having continually exercised my model against the literature and now against the supplers ideas, along with the growing challenge of government expectations for measurement, I am now reassessing it and fortunately haven’t found it wanting.

 Where the model does need development is in ensuring that the expectations gap is met at the level of politicians, management and citizens. I’m currently concluding that the power of the model is proven by the fact that expectations are not the same across channels and that they also change with channel usage, also that using citizen co-development to transform channels is the ideal. I’m calling this ‘citizen engagement management’ and the review process whether that be that a dashboard, scorecard or whatever, the ‘citizen engagement exchange’.

Feeding into this ‘exchange’ we have the channels, the management and politician feedback to the citizen feedback, which may be management or political priorities, along with citizen and officer feedback, this provides some measure of importance to the feedback, especially if it is low or high from the citizen perspective i.e. lots of complaints or few. The output from the ‘exchange’ is then directed into refocusing management, reviewing processes or systems, or even examining how channels are used.

I need to re-emphase that engagement is qualitative and not about pure numbers, it is about watching out for the variation that throws processes, systems or management out of sync and putting them back on track. The ‘Gemba‘ has to be the whole, the end-to-end systems, and this is refined by the ‘exchange’, which is core of the customer engagement process.

company-table-v3 of the supplier list is now available with a further addition. These systems or applications are just a way of collecting data when engaging with the public, they only become of value when the information supplied is used to change existing practice.