The omni-channel transitions governments overlook

A Forrester report shows the way customer expectations are changing with the growth of mobile connectivity, but those consumers are citizens, too

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Maybe an 11-year-old doesn’t know what the “omni-channel” is, but even at that age kids expect to engage across multiple touch points, from any device, at any time. And if they’re not happy about something, they’re going to be vocal about it.

While that expectation exists, many businesses are still struggling to make the omni-channel a reality. If that’s the case with the private sector — which has financial and reputational incentives — then it’s reasonable to assume the public sector is driven to pursue similar goals to help citizens.

According to a recent Forrester report by Tony Costa, called “Build Seamless Experiences Now,” few experiences address the emerging behaviours of consumers armed with multiple connected devices. And those disconnected experiences “slow customers down, limit their channel options and degrade brand value,” he says.

Ninety per cent of consumers in the U.S. and UK who own multiple connected devices switch between them to complete tasks, using an average of three different device combinations each day, according to Forrester. But only 17 per cent say organizations make it easy to switch between different channels.

It’s easy to see why this is important in the private sector, where customers can make or break a business. But why should the public sector care? After all, if you need to renew your driver’s licence or file your taxes, does it really matter if you can do this over any connected device, via the omni-channel? Isn’t that just a waste of taxpayer dollars?

I’d contend it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars to stick with the status quo.

According to Forrester, disconnected experiences can interrupt progress, such as failing to remember previous searches when moving from one device to another. And this usually translates to loss of reputation or faith in the brand, which can translate into lost sales. “When disconnects occur, customer satisfaction takes a nosedive,” says Costa.

There aren’t a lot of examples out there of these connected customer experiences. But has figured it out, with a shopping cart that allows you to place items in it from your smartphone and PC at the same time.

Imagine this capability in the public sector. Whether you’re calling the CCRA, filing your taxes online or using a tax preparation app on your tablet, you’re looking for what Forrester calls a “unified system of engagement.”

Imagine if, while talking to an agent at the CCRA, you could be sending information or filling out forms on connected devices at the same time — and the entire process would be seamless, without any loss of data?

Disconnected experiences are annoying, but they’re also inefficient. They lead to repetition of tasks, duplication of effort and wasted time — all of which lead to wasted taxpayer dollars (and perhaps even a less engaged citizenship).

Forrester’s advice applies just as much to the public sector as the for-profit world: Track and measure interactions to understand what your customers (or citizens) are doing. Understand how these touch points relate to each other. Think about experiences instead of touch points and align road maps to this vision.

One day, in the not-so-distant future, those 11-year-olds are going to become tax-paying citizens who may still not understand what the omni-channel is — but they will certainly expect to be using it.

Dive deeper by downloading ‘Three Ways IT Departments Can Drive Innovation in Customer Service,” a white paper about customer-centric business models. 

Image courtesy of tungphoto at

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  1. Websites that work on any device, any time? This article is nice but barely readable on my smartphone. Why is the text column so narrow, and why can’t I resize it? You wax eloquent but you have a long way to go before you will meet your own expectations.

    NetMinder / 9 years ago
  2. Hi NetMinder – We recently updated expertIP so it is now optimized for reading on smartphones and tablets. Please let us know if you have a better reading experience.

    Mark Glucki / 9 years ago