Department of … huh? U.S. county models citizen services after consumer sites

How many homeowners know about their local Department of Public Works? Or, to rephrase, are you aware that the city or county department that handles…

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Keith Nelson

September 8, 20223 minute read

How many homeowners know about their local Department of Public Works? Or, to rephrase, are you aware that the city or county department that handles upkeep of your local  infrastructure is called the Department of Public Works? And as a homeowner can you find what you need from them?

According to the American Public Works Association (APWA), while some public works services are considered “must haves” in every community (water, utilities and trash collection), they may not be readily identified or delivered in the same way from one community to the next. To inform about services such as trash pickup times, local government websites must become ‘frictionless’, which Deloitte defines as offering ‘one-click’ shopping to access services with little to no effort. Deloitte also urges that governments’ commitment to digital include personalized and anticipatory design and experience.

Some U.S. municipalities have started to move towards this new way of seamless service delivery. Let’s look at Florida’s Miami-Dade County and its award-winning example of the benefits that a digital citizen experience can bring.

Delivering ‘borderless government’

Citizens in Miami-Dade County can access the service they want without needing to know which department provides it. This powerful, self-serve model is what the county calls ‘borderless government’ because it cuts across bureaucracy. Miamidade.gov portal navigation is now structured by category, made possible by OpenText™ TeamSite™ backend tagging and classification capabilities. The site, now citizen-centric and omni-channel, had grown stale since its original launch in 2001. To support hundreds of services delivered by more than 70 separate departments, the team took inspiration from ecommerce sites where AI and analytics recommend products or services that are of interest.

Miami-Dade County’s home page

This included introducing a search box that connects the citizen to the content or service they need – trash pick-up, for example — without ever having to know which department delivers it. Subsequent user research showed that 75% of citizens said they were able to find what they were looking for and 69% were able to complete their task on the first visit, taking pressure off county employees and contact centers.

Miami-Dade has also added intelligence to its portal using AI that helps surface information for users as well as find other information that may be relevant. With a personalized miamidade.gov profile, users can create custom settings to receive text or email alerts for things like recycling day reminders, transit services or hurricane warnings.

The more a citizen uses the portal, the more the county can personalize its services, anticipate citizen needs and engage with them in a timely manner. This has become a process of continual improvement.

Embracing ‘mobile first’

Key to the success of the new portal was the transition from a solely web-based service to encompass mobile capabilities, as more than 60% of portal traffic comes from mobile devices. In addition, Miami-Dade used data-capture templates to structure content for voice and augmented agents such as Alexa and Siri to further enhance omnichannel accessibility.

The way forward

As with many other sectors, the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation within government. Maybe trash day doesn’t qualify as a life-changing event or a high-impact service, but being able to easily find out which day to put bins out matters to residents. Delivering better digital citizen experiences that maximize resources and empower workforces is the way forward.

Learn more about Experience Platform for Cities from OpenText, specifically designed to provide the tools you need to drive deeper and richer citizen engagement.

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Keith Nelson

Keith Nelson is Senior Industry Strategist for Global Public Sector at OpenText. He has more than 20 years experience working in public sector high-tech and management consulting and as a government appointee. His roles in government include serving as Assistant Secretary for Administration, Chief Financial Officer, and Deputy Chief Information Officer at multiple U.S. Federal Cabinet Agencies.

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