By Olatayo Ladipo-Ajai
While the Nigerian government has placed extensive focus on politics, building infrastructure and supporting a host of “brick and mortar” projects, it has, like many other Governments across the world met with some significant challenges when it came to deploying effective customer experience platforms. This has made it difficult to meet the needs of citizens who – particularly during and following the impact of the pandemic – want, and in many cases need to digitally engage with organs of state.
As a developing nation, there is an urgent need for the government to address this gap and implement some form of digital strategy that will empower citizen engagement and experience. As unprecedented changes continue to reshape our world, the government is working toward becoming more integrated and intuitive to better serve its citizens – but time is of the essence. Rather than try to reinvent the wheel, there are other sectors that can provide good templates for the public sector.
The country’s private sector, specifically the financial industry, could serve as an example for the government with regard to digital transformation. Highly regulated, they present a truthful and trustworthy example of best practices of how to roll out technology effectively and efficiently that can be harnessed to create deeper and richer citizen engagements. Hence, much could be gleaned from looking at the standards and pace set by technology deployment in the private sector and how this has significantly revolutionised customer engagement to create value along the customer journey at scale.
There are, inevitably, several major challenges to overcome before a connected citizen experience across the entire citizen journey can be achieved, not least being that of data consolidation. Currently, the government holds disparate sets of data generated by different state departments and ministries engaging with the public in silos. There is thus little insight into individual citizens or their needs and expectations. The good news is that there are now ample examples from the commercial sector that began from this exact same starting point and which will offer invaluable guidance.
Understanding the ‘new’ citizen
Like these other businesses when they first started on the digital transformation journey, Government must face the fact that it has little understanding of the “new”, tech-savvy citizen that has emerged in recent times. While it is important to focus on rolling out deeper internet and smartphone penetration, the section of the population that has been connected is still not being served as it should.
A further challenge is the government’s current inability to make more informed and quicker decisions. Without properly consolidated citizen engagement or behaviour data, the government has little choice at this time than to have to rely on simply looking at one segment of the population and guessing as to what their needs might be. For example, when responding to the need for more schools in a rural area, the government is likely to build a ‘brick and mortar facility, whereas, in fact, a particular community could benefit more from a virtual school and a technology service centre that would serve as a digital education platform.
The need for government to treat citizens like customers is particularly critical, especially when benchmarked against what is happening in the private sector. It is becoming increasingly clear that citizens want to be treated like customers and have access to a feedback system that allows them to communicate with the government and get a response.
Copy the private sector
When citizens want to engage with their service provider, in this case, the government, they want to be able to do so anytime and anywhere, over their preferred channels. So, without seeing citizens as customers, the government will not be able to profile areas and segment service delivery appropriately. The key to success is to copy the private sector and provide the ability to segment customers and continually engage with them and provide feedback.
At this stage, the government is relying on one-way communication to reach citizens through channels such as radio, TV and print media, and in some cases docile social media accounts that are not functionally dynamic or interactive. This does not allow for any engagement, as the government is not able to hear its citizens. As a result, the government may be less cost-effective, missing service delivery opportunities and, ultimately, alienating the customer.
To successfully implement an e-government strategy, the government needs to consolidate its data network or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems to digitise its contacts with citizens. This data should be harnessed to develop a digital contact centre that provides multi-channel engagement so that government is available 24/7. This digital contact centre should be underpinned by Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies, as such chatbots, that will deliver a uniform service across multiple channels.
The benefits of implementing a successful e-government strategy are endless, including improved customer/citizen satisfaction, increased efficiency of government operations and enhanced mission effectiveness.
However, an omnichannel strategy is a key to implementing a successful e-governance model for today’s connected consumer. This would give the government control of its entire engagement process and even better if this can be via a single dashboard or single view where it can manage the whole citizen journey end-to-end, rather than having multiple vendor layers and multiple engagement points. An omnichannel strategy would also enable the government to reach customers on the different channels of their choice.
The right technology partner can help the government to flesh out a formidable digital strategy and bring the experience to enhance the entire customer journey. To this end, the government should consider reaching out with confidence and being open to acquiring the skills and expertise of experienced technology partners as together they can make a better future for the population.
Olatayo Ladipo-Ajai is the Country Manager at Infobip Nigeria