The demand for more automated, self-service access to United States public services, when and where citizens need them, grows each day—and so do advances in the consumer technologies like Intelligent Personal Assistants designed to meet those challenges. The U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) Emerging Citizen Technology program, part of the Technology Transformation Service’s Innovation Portfolio, launched an open-sourced pilot to guide dozens of federal programs to make public service information available to consumer Intelligent Personal Assistants (IPAs) for the home and office, such as Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, Google Assistant, and Facebook Messenger.
Along with the New Year comes new buzzwords. Here are some that you are certain to hear about and see this year. Chatbot Short for ”chat robot,” a chatbot is a computer program that simulates human conversation, or chat, through artificial intelligence. They are commonly found on web sites and used to communicate with a person—you might have seen them on shopping sites as a customer service assistant. One well known example of a chatbot is ALICE (short for Artificial Linguistic Computer Entity), an open source, natural language chatbot that relies on artificial intelligence for human interaction.
DigitalGov University (DGU), the events platform for DigitalGov, provides programming to build and accelerate digital capacity by providing webinars and in-person events highlighting innovations, case studies, tools, and resources. Thanks to your participation, DGU hosted over 90 events with 6,648 attendees from over 100 agencies across federal, tribal, state, and local governments. DGU strives to provide training throughout the year that is useful and relevant to you. One of the most resounding comments from digital managers last year was people wanted to be able to attend all of our classes virtually.
I’m taking a break from sorting through dozens of concepts from federal agencies about how they want to use artificial intelligence and virtual reality for citizens in the coming months in order to share with you just some of these groundbreaking initiatives of tomorrow that can be explored at a DigitalGov University workshop this week. We’re launching our two new U.S. government-wide Communities — Artificial Intelligence for Citizen Services, and Virtual/Augmented Reality — with a workshop, creatively called the Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality for Federal Public Service Workshop, that brings together federal managers behind programs at more than 50 agencies with dozens of private sector teams ready to demo the technology that will drive our innovations together for years to come.
Today we’re launching three new initiatives powered by GSA Digital Communities that leap federal agencies ahead on some of the most innovative new capabilities becoming available to our programs — Artificial Intelligence, Virtual/Augmented Reality, and the U.S. Digital Registry. These new Communities and portal are products of inter-agency collaboration and our shared commitment pushing the bar forward on effective adoption of digital public services that meet the needs of citizens today and tomorrow… and plant seeds for growing long into the future.
Federal agencies confront tough problems every day. In searching for solutions, agencies will want to attract different perspectives, test new products, build capacity and communities, and increase public awareness. How do they do it? The answer: open innovation. Federal agencies need to engage and collaborate with all sectors of society, a task made easier by online technologies, says a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued last week. OPEN INNOVATION: Practices to Engage Citizens and Effectively Implement Federal Initiatives is accompanied by an infographic and podcast, all well worth your while.
Have you been hearing the terms “Customer Experience” or “CX” a lot lately? Maybe you’re wondering how they relate to customer service, or maybe you want to learn more about CX and how it can help your customers. Whether you directly interact with customers, support front line employees, or manage program operations, your work has an impact on your agency’s customers. And it’s very important that excellent customer service be at the forefront in the federal government because we impact so many lives.
Tech giants have changed the world of broadcast forever. In a little more than a year, video on Facebook went from being a seldomly seen media type on a user’s timeline to a strategic priority for Mark Zuckerberg. The platform now serves over 8 billion video views a day and Facebook continues to roll out improvements to Facebook Live, a tool that lets any Facebook user easily broadcast from their mobile phone.
Digital communities of practice come in many stripes. DigitalGov communities span eight (and counting) focus areas and have thousands of members, but strong collaborations exist in all corners of government. In honor of this month’s communities theme, we are offering a list of communities that foster connections and strengthen the digital capabilities of federal agencies. Here is a list of some communities working in the digital arena: 18F /Developer Program CIO Council: Accessibility Community of Practice CIO Council: Privacy Community of Practice Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Drupal for Government eCPIC Federal Steering Committee (FESCom) Federal Communicators Network Federal Intranet Content Managers Federal Knowledge Management Community Federal Librarians Ideation Community of Practice Mobile Health (m Health) Training Institutes Training Institutes”) Open Data listserv: Anyone with a .
Around this month’s Communities Theme, the DigitalGov team thought we’d round up your community rock stars. These are people in your communities who’ve gone above and beyond, who’ve contributed content, organized events, participated in developing toolkits and more. Let’s kick it off with the DigitalGov Summit Sounding Board. DigitalGov Summit Sounding Board For the 2015 DigitalGov Summit we pulled together innovators from across the federal government to guide the programming, promote the CrowdHall (and Summit overall) and help identify speakers.
39 participants. 17 agencies. 6 months. Earlier this year, the CIO Council launched the IT Solutions Challenge, an initiative to engage GS 9-13 level rising stars in the IT and IT acquisition community. Participants identify shared challenges, those challenges where you might say to yourself, “if only we could [x], life would be so much easier!” Working together over 6 months, the teams prototype and make recommendations for solutions.
In June, the new Customer Experience Community of Practice (CX-COP) hosted Jonathan Stahl, Executive Director of Ballpark Operations and Guest Experience of the Washington Nationals, to share best practices on how to deliver a great customer experience. Below are four insights he shared. Develop and Share Core Values The Nationals’ core organizational values are excellence, performance and accountability. The core values are posted prominently wherever employees gather, such as break rooms, on the way to the field, and in offices.
Many of you are part of a government community. We lead a few of them here, and new ones are forming all the time. In fact, as I was writing this article, I stumbled upon a community for government Drupal users. A co-worker recently asked me for research on communities because she is trying to increase the sense of community among her program’s customers. Her question made me realize that the public and private sectors use communities in different ways.
It’s a beautiful day in the DigitalGov neighborhood, and we want you to be our neighbor: no red sweater required. The strength of digital government depends on robust collaboration across agencies, offices, and disciplines. The virtual federal neighborhood collaborates through numerous communities of practice, each of which promotes the open exchange of ideas and resources. Communities have already made a big splash in 2015, and for this month’s DigitalGov theme, we’ll highlight those efforts.
When people hear about challenge competitions, they most often ask about the results. What worked and why did it work? Two great examples are featured on the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy site, which include the “needle in the haystack” solvers for a space mass competition and eleven entrepreneurial start-ups that are using breast cancer research. You’ll also read about how the Federal Community of Practice for Challenges and Prizes is creating a toolkit with user-centered design that ultimately will be developed into an interactive resource for government agencies to run incentive competitions, from conception through to implementation.
So, you have some systems or tools your customers or employees access. Maybe you want to put together a robust capability to conduct usability testing. How do you start formalizing user experience (UX) into your organization? Brad Ludlow at GSA tossed this topic out on the User Experience community listserv, and I’ve encapsulated the superb discussion that followed below. Here, then, are four easy steps to building User Experience into your office:
If you and your organization don’t already have a content strategy, then you are most likely working too hard to create content that is less effective in communicating your desired message and less relevant to your end-user. The lack of a content strategy can leave you at the mercy of the content “beast” where you are constantly scrambling to feed it with little time to think of the quality of the random scraps you keep flinging into the cage.
Being able to design a website that users love is not too far away from being able to read their minds. While designers can’t read minds, that doesn’t stop them from using their website’s top tasks to make it seem like they can. A website’s top tasks include 5-10 tasks (depending on the scope of the site) that the majority of the website’s users want or need to do on the site.
The federal government is one of the largest consumers of products and services in the United States. Yet, many agencies face tight budgets and firm guidelines that restrict the parameters under which agencies can use a product or service to complete projects. This presents an interesting opportunity and dilemma for agencies who want to procure new digital tools to complete their projects. Dilemmas There are strict guidelines that govern the contracts and legal agreements into which the federal government can enter in order to use a tool or service.
We released the United States Public Participation Playbook this week, a new open resource agencies can use to evaluate and build better programs that give a voice to the people they serve—and the response was fantastic. Public servants and citizens around the world have shared it, and already are contributing new ideas that build from the work of the team of 70 federal leaders, more than a dozen engagement experts, and citizens themselves who worked together to launch it.
Innovative wearables, stronger wifi and more 3D printing have been among the many projections for the future of mobile in 2015. Whatever comes to pass, we can be certain that the anytime, anywhere user will develop new habits and desires based on new trends. Government must accelerate its customer service approach with anytime, anywhere efforts to keep up. Here’s what I see agencies will have to do to keep up and–just maybe get ahead–in 2015.
In January on DigitalGov, we’ll highlight pieces looking at trends we see coming in the digital government space in 2015 and beyond. We have lined up articles around: Customer Service Data 3D Printing at NIH and NASA Accessibility Mobile, and Training. Check back Monday, when we kick-off the month with 15 Government Customer Service Trends. And you can look at some of our most recent monthly theme articles in: crowdsourcing, user experience, and mobile.
When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990, there was no Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Since then, the number of social media channels, and their use for communication among all demographics, has grown exponentially. Unfortunately, however, despite newer ways to reach individuals living with disabilities, many individuals in this community face challenges in gaining full access to the content and conversation on social media platforms.
Social media for public service is a diverse field that uses platforms and data from both the private and public sectors to improve citizen services, make them easier to access and deliver them more cost effectively. It is not just public affairs or communications, but spreads into customer service, resource development and more. Many of the best examples of social media in government can’t be seen on the surface of a tweet or post, but in how these collaborative, engaging strategies improve the processes of public services themselves.
Crowdsourcing is a critical corner of the digital government landscape, and our December theme articles have covered the topic from a variety of angles. Before we head into January, where we will discuss upcoming trends on the digital horizon, we sat down to learn more about the evolution and future direction of federal crowdsourcing initiatives as a whole. We spoke with Jenn Gustetic, Assistant Director for Open Innovation in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
The cream of the crop of the top of the mountain of ALL of the surveys I run has to be the Federal User Experience (UX) Survey. It’s the second time I’ve had the privilege of running it with Jean Fox, research psychologist extraordinaire from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. When I start thinking about learning what all of my UX colleagues are doing, and designing solutions for them based on real data, I start clasping my fingers together like Mr.
Thanks to the power of open data and APIs, federal agencies can now register their mobile native apps and websites on the Federal Mobile Products Registry and have them appear on the USA.gov Federal Mobile Apps Directory (formerly USA.gov Apps Gallery) almost immediately. When we launched the USA.gov Apps Gallery in 2010 there were less than 15 apps. To register an app, an agency would contact us with app info, download screenshots and create a “page” for that app.
Recently, I was designing new outreach materials and needed a way to connect this offline collateral with my agency’s digital content. Using a QR (or Quick Response) code immediately came to mind, followed by the question, “Are QR codes still relevant?” Opinions differ on their utility and I couldn’t find any objective data on how often they were scanned by users. Even their inventor has doubts about their shelf life.
Editor’s note: Building off the great discussion started around Customer Experience, we’re looking at the difference between User Acceptance Testing and Usability Testing. If you develop software, you’ve probably heard of User Acceptance Testing. You may also have heard the term Usability Testing. Same thing, right? Nope. And confusion here can cause big problems. Last year I was developing a mobile game for Android—think Whack-A-Mole meets mutant veggies. Eight months into the project we decided to do some user acceptance testing to find some bugs before launch.
How do you find participants for your usability studies? I spoke recently with the User Experience Community of Practice about how we recruit participants for usability and cognitive studies at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Hopefully I can give you some new ideas about recruiting volunteers to fuel your user research. At BLS, we need different types of participants for different studies. Very often, we are looking for members of the general public.
Live Web chat is an important component of good customer service. People like having the option of talking with an agent in real-time without having to pick up the phone. While live chat is not widespread, several agencies have shown great success in serving the public through this alternative channel. At a recent Government Contact Center Council meeting, colleagues from HHS (cancer.gov), Education (StudentAid.gov), and GSA (USA.gov) shared their challenges and successes in implementing and managing Web chat.
“User Experience” and “Customer Experience.” They sound pretty similar, right? Well, here at the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, we look at it like this: User Experience (UX) deals with people interacting with your product and the experience they receive from that interaction. UX is measured with metrics like: success rate, error rate, abandonment rate, time to complete task, and (since we deal in digital) clicks to completion.
In 2012, the Federal Reserve Board used the Top-task methodology to redesign our intranet, called Inside the Board, which had not been significantly updated since it was launched in 1995. After determining the top tasks the audience needs to accomplish on a website, you can run usability tests to gain knowledge and improve the site. The project was wildly successful. Task completion ratings rose to more than 90% after the redesign, from 58% on the legacy site—drastically increasing the productivity of the Board’s employees.
Structured content and open content models can help you create content that is platform-agnostic, format-free, and device-independent. This was the theme of the “What Structured Content Can Do For You: Article Model” webinar last month. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kG25vyQ5Jps&w=600] Using a content model is less about how you are crafting your message and more about how the internet is going to react to your content or how you can manipulate it, according to Holly Irving from the National Institutes of Health, Russell O’Neill from the General Services Administration, and Logan Powell from U.
Smartphones, tablets, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, not to mention your agency’s desktop website, are all clamoring for information, but sliced and diced in different ways. How can you make your content adaptive for efficient delivery to all of these mediums? Structured content and open content models can help you create content that is platform-agnostic, format-free, and device-independent. We’ve created two open and structured content models that we want you to use and adapt.
“In business, words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises, but only performance is reality.” Harold S. Geneen As government contact center managers, we dream of having contact center contractors who regularly exceed our performance expectations. One way to motivate your contractor to excel is by including financial incentives/disincentives directly into your contact center contract. The concept for incentives/disincentives is a simple one—pay more when your contractor over performs; pay less when your contractor under performs.
Need Help Responding to Facebook & Twitter Questions? Use Your Contact Center Customer Service Experts
Government agencies are always looking for better ways to connect with their audiences while making more effective use of existing (or shrinking) resources. To that end, many agencies—including ours, the National Cancer Institute—have begun to use social media platforms to help serve the communications mission. As these tools have become more widely used, NCI’s Contact Center has become an essential partner in our social media efforts. For those who don’t know us, NCI is the largest of the 27 Institutes and Centers within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
Social Media tools, trends and algorithms come and go, but federal managers continue to see improvements in their digital engagement initiatives when they put citizens at the center of their programs. It’s common to hear that government social media lags behind the private sector especially when held to standards that don’t consider government’s unique needs and goals. Yet, even as marketers call for exit strategies from some platforms, many of our agencies see an increase in their performance even without paid promotions because of effective engagement strategies.
While it does provide challenges, anytime, anywhere digital government provides numerous opportunities for contact centers to do business more effectively. According to this study by Compare Business Products, one of the most important impacts for contact centers is that smartphone users can now connect with contact centers via voice calls, SMS messages, Internet pages, social media video chat and native apps. While mobile is changing user habits, the study states, “those contact centers that are able to embrace these channels and make it easy for customers to contact them through any of these at their whim will naturally be those that rise to the top of the pile and impress their customers.
With a calculated process, the right tools, and a staff willing to make it work, you can measure user experience (UX) on your websites and implement usability changes that show results. In a recent DigitalGov University webinar entitled “Measuring User Experience”, UX supporters and practitioners heard from Achaia Walton, Senior Digital Analyst at the Department of Health and Human Services, about finding what critical things to measure to make websites more user-friendly.
All of us want to improve the content and information we provide to the public, but we’re intimidated by where to start: Does our website provide clear content? Is the best information hidden on pages a few layers down? What should we tweet about this month? What are customers saying about our information? The best source of this information is a resource right in your agency–your agency’s Contact Center.
Using contact centers to deliver digital services is an emerging area in government. Due to the growth of online services, centers receive more attention and represent an important touch point for customers. When you need to speak directly with someone to get help or resolve an issue, it must be a good experience. This reflects on all channels associated with that brand. Timeliness of resolving your problem, question or request.
1. Meet all Laws, Requirements, Policies, and Directives for Federal Contact Centers Understand and follow all Privacy, Security, Disability, and Service Contract Act requirements. 2. Use Performance Metrics to Influence Business Rules and Drive Improvements Develop Key Performance Indicators/Metrics (see Performance Goals). CSLIC could be used as a start. 3. Develop and Use a Comprehensive Quality Assurance Program Monitor quality. Use data to provide feedback to website/content team.
If you want a better user experience on your government website, there’s a simple secret: early planning. Good designers know that it’s much more difficult to make changes to something after it’s built than before. This is true for designing just about anything, whether it’s a website, car, or new kitchen. So if you’re in the early stages of designing — or redesigning — your website, here are some easy, “almost-no-budget-needed” steps you can take to ensure your users will be happier (or at least less frustrated):
“Dark Social” media took the web by storm this week, unveiling to many the shadows in measuring your social media impact. This accounts for the majority of your traffic and yet lives untraced where standard metrics fear to tread (or simply cannot) — places like email and instant messaging. Alexis Madrigal, senior editor of The Atlantic, proposed last week in a post: “The sharing you see on sites like Facebook and Twitter is the tip of the ‘social’ iceberg.