Enhancing Government Operations with Seamless Customer Experiences

Enhancing Government Operations with Seamless Customer Experiences

Adopting a customer-centric mindset can make it easier for everyday citizens to get the help they need at government offices

At first glance, a “customer-centric government office” may seem like a mismatched term. The United States government isn’t a business, and its citizens aren’t customers. Whereas businesses exist to make money, governments exist to provide infrastructure and services. Government offices must be as straightforward, transparent, and ethical as possible — and there are often consequences if they’re not.

However, government offices have a lot to gain by taking a page or two out of the business world’s book. By improving the “customer experience,” officials can streamline their own operations and provide vital services for citizens in need. Over the next few years, better funding and more expansive digital initiatives should help make this possible.

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What does prioritizing the customer experience mean?

To maximize profits, businesses often adopt a “customer-centric” approach. “Customer-centric” is a bit of a catch-all term. The definition varies somewhat depending on which source you consult. However, the underlying principle is always the same. Businesses want to entice new visitors and make them into loyal customers over time. According to Forbes:

“[Customer centricity is] the ability of people in an organization to understand customers’ situations, perceptions, and expectations. The customer should be at the center of all decisions related to delivering products, services, and experiences to create customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.”

In other words, a seamless customer experience is one that puts the consumer first. Customer-centric businesses work hard to build and maintain brand loyalty.

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A customer-centric approach to government offices

Government offices don’t run like businesses, nor should they. Private companies can be selective about their customers. They can sacrifice long-term growth for short-term gain. They can even take wild risks and go out of business completely. None of that is feasible for a government agency.

This doesn’t always work to the government’s advantage. Government services often have no official competition. This means that they may be slow, inefficient, or discriminatory. Even then, citizens will keep using their services, as there are no alternatives.

According to the Pew Research Center, Americans’ trust in government has declined steadily over the last seven decades. This includes the country’s bureaucratic systems. Providing better “customer service” could be a sign of good faith in regaining that trust.

The good news is there is now money set aside to address this problem. The 2025 budget includes more than $500 million to improve digital services in the U.S. government.

Modern citizens live in a digital world. Smartphones, apps, and broadband internet define a good chunk of their everyday experiences. By digitizing their assets, government offices can offer citizens a more seamless experience.

The role of digitization in government

“Digitization” is the process of taking physical documents and converting them into a digital format. This is closely related to another concept called “digitalization.” That’s when organizations take a digital-first approach to their workflow. Physical documents still exist in digitalized organizations, but usually as shorthand or backups.

Digitalization can be tricky, especially in old or large organizations. The U.S. federal government is more than 230 years old and employs almost three million workers. Digitizing documents is time-consuming, especially in a regimented bureaucracy. Some government veterans may be resistant to drastic workflow changes. There are also privacy concerns, since government offices deal with large quantities of sensitive personal information.

Still, some government digitization projects have seen incredible success. One instructive example is from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In 2016, the organization started letting taxpayers create online accounts. Citizens can now check past tax returns and pay current ones online. So far, the service has 19 million accounts — more than 10% of individual taxpayers.

This service benefits both the IRS and taxpayers. The website is faster and more convenient than either phone calls or physical mail. This saves frustration for citizens, money for government workers, and time for both parties. It’s also easier for both sides to reference and store information.

The White House has highlighted many of the U.S. government’s current digital shortcomings. Currently, only 2% of government forms are available in a digital format. Forty-five percent of government websites don’t have mobile versions, while 60% don’t provide adequate accessibility options. Search protocols on government websites are often confusing and contradictory. Federal Chief Information Officer Clare Martorana has called the situation “unacceptable.”

At the same time, digitalization provides a huge opportunity. Government offices could operate more efficiently. Citizens could find what they’re looking for online. In-person appointments could be smoother and faster. Giving citizens the tools they’d expect from a digital-first business is a fantastic way to adopt a customer-centric philosophy.

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Ricoh’s resources for government officials

If you want to digitalize your government office, Ricoh can help. Our Government page provides resources for federal, state, and local employees. You can also learn about our scanners, which are invaluable digitization tools. Our wide range of hardware offers solutions for individual remote setups, huge offices, and everything in between.

Contact us today to see how Ricoh can streamline your operations, develop a set of best practices, and ensure compliance with legal standards.

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