consumer expectations are defined by the private sector heres why thats important to your agency

Consumer expectations are defined by the private sector. Here’s why that’s important to your agency

If you're a customer of this travel insurance company (a client of ours), you have the option to receive support via phone, email, chat, and SMS. When you interact with an agent, they can see your interaction history from every channel you've used thus far so that you don't need to repeat the details of past or ongoing issues. Additionally, you won't have to wait very long for a response, because they've optimized forecasting and scheduling, and smarter routing reduces the chances of repeated transfers until you finally connect with an agent that can help you.

This is just one of many examples of how private sector businesses are delivering exceptional customer service experiences. Brands now compete mostly based on customer experience and invest heavily in innovative contact center technology to meet consumer expectations for seamless, satisfying, and effective interactions.

Our current economic environment has been dubbed the "experience economy." Why? Because product and price have become secondary to experience as a competitive differentiator. In a forward-thinking article called “Welcome to the Experience Economy” published in the Harvard Business Review in 1998, authors B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore weighed in on customer experience:

"An experience occurs when a company intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable event. Commodities are fungible, goods tangible, services intangible, and experiences memorable."  

At the time this was written, the experience economy was described as "emerging," but twenty-three years later, it has arrived and is the new, fully functioning reality.

Profit-driven private sector businesses have a lot to gain by delivering consistently satisfying and memorable experiences. This includes meeting shareholder expectations, building brand awareness, increasing revenue, and strengthening customer loyalty. And these businesses focus effort and resources on one of the most important influencers of customer satisfaction: the contact center.

So, what does this have to do with agencies in the public sector?

Businesses that are hyper-focused on optimizing the customer journey are shaping what your constituents expect from customer service. They've raised the bar for everyone, including the public sector. That means public agencies need to keep pace or risk not meeting customer expectations and limiting the ability to execute on the agency’s mission.

The public sector (i.e., schools, emergency services, healthcare) isn't typically driven by revenue goals, but focusing on customer experience will help agencies fulfill their mission of serving citizens. Additionally, implementing modern technologies that enable better experiences can help improve operations, decrease costs, and increase agent satisfaction and retention.

77 percent of agents 

At a time when the term “the great resignation” reigns in media headlines, making the investments that impact CX will also deliver transformative change to the everyday operation touching, nearly every component: agents, supervisors, and citizens that are engaged with the agency.

Agency leaders should make it a priority to invest in technology that enables them to meet customer expectations and streamline call center operations. Here are some capabilities that will help you do both.

Digital engagement

If your organization is still offering only voice and email support, that's a CX gap you should focus on closing. Today's consumers (your constituents) expect to be able to communicate with organizations through digital channels such as online chat, social media, social messaging, and text (SMS). Research from our Customer Experience Transformation Benchmark found that half of consumers expect companies to allow them to interact via private social messaging apps.

social media stat 

While digital channel adoption was an increasingly dominant trend prior to the pandemic, lockdowns caused digital use to rapidly accelerate as people needed help with pandemic-related issues grew frustrated with lengthy hold times, and could no longer visit brick-and-mortar facilities to get problems resolved.

In a 2020 report, Salesforce revealed that 87% of service professionals say customers have increased their use of digital channels.

Further research shows the following:
digital transformation stats

Even the most tech-reluctant consumers have embraced a wide variety of digital channels, and the increased use is very likely the new normal.

Keys to success for going digital and fulfilling customer expectations

  • Implementing integrated channels. Sometimes when organizations implement digital channels, they use a best-of-breed or lowest-cost approach. This can result in using one vendor for chat, another for social media, a third for email, etc. If the systems don't integrate well, this creates silos that limit the agent’s ability to see the entire customer journey and prevent contact centers from optimizing digital-first customer experiences. A best practice that avoids this pitfall is to implement a fully integrated digital channel solution offered by a single cloud vendor.
  • Providing a unified agent desktop. Offering multiple channels creates an opportunity to increase agent efficiency through multi-skilling. With the right technology, a single agent could end a phone conversation, then handle two simultaneous chat sessions, while having three customer emails waiting for her in her inbox. This can be difficult for agents to manage without a unified agent desktop that contains everything an agent needs to support multiple channels and personalize interactions.

Related resource: Tailored interactions are essential to providing exceptional CX. Download “14 innovative personalization ideas for your contact center” to jumpstart your personalization efforts.  

personalization cover

  • Aim for cross-channel consistency. Offering digital channels in addition to phone support greatly benefits customers and operations, but it also adds complexity to customer experience management. When designing your agency's digital-first experiences, make sure they are consistent with other channel experiences. For example: A customer should get the same resolution regardless of whether they walk into one of your offices, call your service center, use your IVR self-service, interact with a chatbot, or converse with an agent on social media. Inconsistency diminishes the benefits of implementing digital channels.


Does your contact center handle a high amount of basic, repetitive interactions? If so, then you have a great opportunity for customer self-service options. Most private sector businesses have implemented self-service solutions for tasks such as password resets, appointment scheduling, and account balance inquiries, and there are similar opportunities for public agencies to move some of their volume to self-service as well.

If encouraging your constituents to solve their own problems seems to contradict improving the customer experience, consider this statistic: 81% of customers try to solve their own problems before contacting a live agent. By implementing effective self-service solutions, you're actually making it easier for customers to succeed at what they're already attempting. That's what improving CX is all about.

Shifting repetitive tasks to self-service is also good for agent morale. Being inundated with tedious, repetitive activities all day affects morale and makes it difficult for agents to concentrate on more complex interactions. Plus, those simple interactions eat up valuable agent capacity at a time when contact centers can't afford to be wasteful.

checklist for achieving successful customer first self service

Self-service is also good for your budget. Gartner estimates that the average agent-assisted interaction costs $8.01 compared to $.10 for self-service transactions in channels such as websites and mobile apps.

Just think of the cost savings in moving a modest 5% of your agent-assisted volume to self-service channels! Those savings are tangible and attainable for many organizations. Our research shows that 84% of customers are more willing to do business with companies that offer self-service options. However, only 61% of customers believe that the companies they patronize offer easy, convenient self-service, which is why it would do well for its implementation into your contact center operations to be a priority.

Let's look at some of the self-service options that would be a good fit for public agencies.

  • Streamlined, searchable knowledge bases: Have you ever searched for something on a company's website and, frustratingly, been presented with a long list of results of which none was exactly what you were looking for? Not all knowledge management systems are created equal, but the most effective ones assist your constituents by answering common questions without a laundry list of irrelevant topics to sift through. Even better, your agents can also leverage the knowledge base to provide customers with consistent answers across all channels.
  • Conversational IVR (Interactive Voice Response): The right IVR can also access knowledge bases, but is capable of much more than answering questions. A smart, conversational IVR enables your constituents to voice their needs naturally (no pressing 1 for anything). It also facilitates transactions such as checking the status of benefits and changing an address. With the ability to quickly make configuration changes, an IVR empowers agencies to react swiftly to disruptions such as hurricanes and worldwide pandemics.
  • Chatbots: Chatbots come with a variety of capabilities ranging from simple, menu-driven bots to AI-powered virtual agents This allows agencies to design and deploy a chatbot that meets requirements specific to their mission and constituents. The University of Arizona is an example of a public entity that successfully uses a chatbot for interactions. Students can text questions about the FAFSA process to the Ask Benji bot and receive answers regarding topics such as application deadlines and more.

Enhancing agent engagement and performance in remote environments

As your organization probably experienced recently, a large majority of agents transitioned to a work-from-home setup. It’s likely many of them want to continue working remotely.

Private sector businesses see the value of a work from home agent model. It improves work/life balance and has become an important component of business continuity plans. As a result, 70% of businesses plan to continue allowing at least a portion of their agents to work remotely. Gartner predicts that 35% of the customer experience (CX) workforce will be work from home by 2023, up from 5% in 2017.

Although there are many benefits to a remote agent model, it can create some challenges. As with any remote worker, at-home agents can feel disconnected from the organization and their team if the contact center doesn't implement specific preventative measures. Additionally, supervisors who can no longer use a "walk the floor" management style need tools that help them monitor and develop agents.

agent tips

Agent engagement is important. There's a lot of truth in the saying, "Happy agent, happy customer." Increasing engagement helps increase retention, and in the current labor market, it’s advisable for contact centers to try to keep every good agent they can. But despite investments in decreasing agent attrition, 80% of businesses report that agent churn has remained the same or gotten worse.

Here are some tools that can help keep remote agents engaged, connected, monitored, and proficient:

  • Collaboration tools: Deloitte research revealed that "40% of employees say digital collaboration platforms are the top factor for sustainable remote work."

collaboration stat

  • Aligning roles, responsibilities, and performance with business goals: ICMI found that this is the number one contributor to high engagement levels.
  • Gamification. Gamification helps make hitting performance targets fun and engaging, and when you add team goals to the mix, it can increase a sense of connection between agents.

Prepare agents to meet consumer expectations

Private businesses set the CX standard for everyone. They're modernizing their contact centers and providing agents and supervisors with the necessary tools and training to provide exceptional and memorable experiences. To satisfy their constituents, public agencies should follow suit by offering digital engagement and self-service, and ensure agents are supported and engaged no matter where they work.

Going digital requires an uplevel in agent skills. Download "New Agent Training Tips for Today’s Digital World" for useful information about preparing your agents for your digital transformation.