In recent years, the way we communicate at work has changed. Today, employees expect to host meetings over video easily from anywhere and complete daily tasks through messages.
But while public sector teams have gained ground using new forms of communication for teams internally, this often isn’t the case when it comes to connecting with their service users. When it comes to communicating externally in the public sector, organisations still very much rely on traditional channels. And, in an increasingly digital consumer landscape, this doesn’t necessarily meet citizen expectations.
HM Government recognises this discrepancy in how digitalisation and technology are being used. The policy roadmap states that “we have significant challenges to overcome. We need to address years of uneven progress”. What constitutes this “uneven progress” in the public sector?
To explore this question, RingCentral, in collaboration with GovNews, conducted a wide-reaching survey to gain a deeper understanding of how public sector organisations are making use of the latest communications technology.
Where is the ‘uneven progress’ in the public sector?
Throughout our survey results, we found a large discrepancy between how teams used digital solutions to communicate internally versus how they communicated with members of the public. This poses numerous challenges for both staff members and the service users as access to services is restricted and working patterns become inflexible and inefficient. Repeatedly, our survey found that the use of solutions such as chatbots, call centres, and automation was lacking in public sector communication, while there was an overreliance on email with 78% of respondents using this channel. We also found that 35% of respondents still used post and mail services to communicate with the public.
The overreliance on these traditional methods of communication means that services cannot improve. While digital transformation within public sector organisations looks promising, communication with citizens is not keeping up.
But it’s not just citizens who would benefit from using more streamlined, efficient communications. If the public sector overcame the ‘uneven progress’ and closed the gap HM Government has highlighted, staff members would benefit from a more productive and efficient working environment, services would become more efficient, and service users would be able to access vital care faster.
Flexible workflows improve services
Our survey found that while 91% of public sector teams use instant messaging, only 16% of citizen interactions are conducted via this channel. This discrepancy again demonstrates the communications disparity of the public sector post-pandemic. Modern communication solutions such as instant messaging could provide a flexible and efficient way for the public to access services and could unlock huge efficiency gains for public sector teams.
For example, if call volumes are high and wait times are long, service users could input their query via an instant messenger and continue with their day without having to hold the line waiting for a member of staff. Not only does this improve the experience of accessing the service, but it also means staff have more time to work through requests, prioritise and find the best solution for service users. Simple adoptions of already familiar digital communication solutions could hugely improve the way the public sector communicates with the public.
Transforming for a Digital Future
Public sector organisations must address the discrepancy between internal and external communication to meet HM Government’s plans for a digital public service. The Transforming For a Digital Future campaign sets out three core objectives in digitising the public sector. By 2025 HM Government aims to:
- Exceed public expectations and create user-centric policies and public services that are more efficient, fit for the digital age, centred on user needs and deliver the right outcomes.
- Equip civil servants for a digital future by upskilling civil servants in digital capabilities and digital delivery, with access to the right data and tools to do their jobs effectively.
- Enhance government efficiency and security, creating a more joined-up and efficient government that uses common building blocks to deliver services quickly, cheaply and securely.
This vision of a digital transformation has been so focused on the internal operations of the public sector that the potential for digital communications to transform the citizen experience has been overlooked.
If this vision is to be fulfilled in the months to come the public sector must make moves to innovate and adopt modern solutions that are designed to support productivity internally, but also transform the service user experience.
Find out more in our new survey
You can read more about the adoption of user-centric communication solutions in our new survey report.
Originally published Oct 26, 2023