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White Papers

Effective Public Sector Citizen Communications
Supporting citizen-service transformation for the 21st century digital government
By: Quocirca
Published: July 2010
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The UK public sector is in the midst of a period of transformation and improving citizen engagement will be key to the success of this change. The effectiveness of public services relies on reliable, accurate and clear citizen communication. The public sector produces millions of personalised citizen communications each year in the form of, for example, benefits statements, council tax bills and vehicle tax reminders as well as ad-hoc correspondence. Use of legacy outdated and disparate systems makes it almost impossible for central and local government to deliver consistent and accurate communication across printed and electronic channels and to cost-effectively deliver accessible or multilingual communications to meet the diversity of today's UK citizens.

A single platform for CCM can mitigate these challenges by enabling a single communication document to be written once and published to any channel, format or language. This report examines how CCM can drive operational efficiencies, reduce IT expenses, lower call-centre costs and shift printed communication to cheaper online channels-leading to lower paper, stationery and postage costs along with reducing environmental impact.

Executive Summary
Today, the UK public sector faces the challenge of driving efficiency and effectiveness whilst satisfying rising citizen expectations in an increasingly diverse society. Effective citizen communication is key to the delivery of citizen-centric services and promises to extend citizen choice, empower citizens to shape the services they require and enable government to engage with socially excluded audiences. Some areas of local and central government are responding by adopting customer communications management (CCM) tools to create and distribute interactive multichannel communications using a single template design. This has led to reduced IT and office staff costs associated with creating and maintaining multiple templates, improved front-office productivity and reduced customer service calls generated as a result of unclear or confusing communication.

  • Major social, economic and technological factors have transformed the world in which public services operate. The public sector must offer a broad palette of services to a diverse population across channels with universal reach and affordability. Communications must take account of accessibility needs, language requirements and the growing use of digital channels such as the web, email and mobile SMS.
  • The use of online communications such as self-service applications is increasing in popularity. Transformational government strategy and the Varney review have seen many public sector organisations move to less costly online channels to reduce "avoidable contact" and lower call volumes to contact centres. The move to online applications, such as the DVLA's electronic vehicle licensing or HMRC's online self-assessment, can further lower the costs associated with the printing, storage and postage of paper forms.
  • Clear and accurate communication is crucial to improving public service delivery. Departments such as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Department of Health (DH) and the Department for Transport (DfT) produce millions of citizen communication documents on an annual basis. Whilst communications volumes in local authorities may be lower, they face the common challenge of design complexity and multichannel distribution as their central government counterparts.
  • Most public sector agencies are faced with reduced budgets, ageing legacy systems and higher costs in maintaining traditional multiple and disparate back-office and front-office systems. Citizen communications are often based on a multitude of different templates, stored in different environments, making them very difficult to update, track and maintain. The result is a costly, time-consuming and often frustrating process for both citizens and public sector employees.
  • The impact of inaccurate or unclear information can be far-reaching. Failure to provide accurate and complete information can have a serious impact on both the efficiency of local and central government departments and on the citizen's choice and use of public services. For instance, inaccurate information may lead to citizens making inappropriate decisions about their financial plans or citizens not claiming something to which they are legitimately entitled. Lack of awareness of services and poor availability of information in different languages has also been shown to contribute to low take-up of benefits.
  • Central and local government departments should consider a unified approach to the creation and distribution of multichannel communications. A customer communications management (CCM) platform can connect to disparate data sources, eliminating the need for point solutions and legacy systems. CCM ensures document compliance through automated workflow approval and puts approved templates into the hands of front-office employees, reducing the demand on IT resources. Multilingual, accessible and multichannel delivery can all be accommodated through the design of a single template, reducing IT expenses, reducing the time to provision and improving the consistency of communications across print and electronic formats.

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