Tuesday was officially tax day. Although many Americans – especially those that are on top of things – probably completed and filed their taxes months ago, there are always going to be a sizeable segment of the population that decided to put it off. And those that put it off may be in for some surprises should they start scrambling for help before the deadline.
Back in 2015, it was reported that the IRS was only really able to answer about 38 percent of the calls they received. Now, that number has increased dramatically – coming in at about 78 percent as of last month – but that still means that 22 percent of the calls to their toll-free tax assistance line aren’t getting answered. Average wait times have also improved – decreasing from more than 30 minutes to around six minutes, but studies show that’s still a long time for the average American to wait – with many Americans thinking a wait time of two minutes is unacceptable.
It may seem like I’m picking on the IRS, but this is indicative of a larger problem that we’re seeing across the government – it’s increasingly difficult to keep pace with constituent service when budgets are tight, hiring freezes are in effect and they’re having to do more with less. This is exasperated further by the graying of the government workforce, which is rapidly approaching retirement age – or working well past it.
In this age of tightened belts and drawn purse strings, what can government agencies do to answer constituent questions and provide the constituent service that citizens expect – which is increasingly in-line with the service they receive from private sector companies?
Millennials close a door, but open a window
As we discussed, all Americans are against waiting on the phone for constituent service. However, millennials are particularly interesting. Studies show that, although they’re surprisingly more patient on the phone, an increasing number of them are against using the phone to get their information in the first place.
The study I referenced above was conducted by business process outsourcing firm, Arise, which runs call centers for Fortune 500 companies. That study showed that only 59 percent of respondents between the ages of 18-24 think a wait of two minutes is too long, but 18 percent of them don’t even want to use a phone to get customer or constituent service in the first place.
This means that, in the future, agencies will need to get even better about cutting wait times. But it also means that they can find other ways to route constituents around their call centers. If these individuals are comfortable finding their information in other places, it opens a new avenue in which assistance and direction can be provided. And one avenue could be instructional videos available via both mobile devices and websites.
Let’s take a look at an agency that’s doing this really well. The Small Business Administration (SBA), an agency whose mission involves helping small business get off the ground and be successful, has done an excellent job of providing information in short, instructional videos on their website. The SBA’s video library offers basic introductions to their services, explains resources available to small business owners and veterans, and even provides basic information that people looking to start a business need – such as how to write a business plan.
Today, millennials are teaching themselves how to do all kinds of things via YouTube videos – from woodworking to butter churning – it just makes sense to have a video library that explains basic constituent services, details how to take advantage of programs and describes processes that constituents have to follow to get what they need from their government.
Making it happen with digital design
Although the cameras in smartphones have democratized movie making – and they continue to improve in their quality – government agencies are probably looking for something with slightly higher production quality for their constituent-facing communications. Videos explaining constituent services to citizens should be slightly better than the average YouTube reaction video – at least less shaky.
Luckily, there is a new generation of digital design software solutions that are making this possible. Utilizing 3D animation and advanced video editing tools, government agencies can create professional-looking, high production-quality videos that walk their constituents through difficult or menial tasks – such as filling out forms or navigating the process for applying for constituent services.
With videos in place in an easy-to-access portal – via website or mobile app – agencies can then direct their constituents to video repositories for basic instruction and information. Those that are uncomfortable with receiving assistance in this way could still call for help, but many would be able to have basic questions answered without ever having to pick up the phone – especially as our population becomes more online and digital friendly.
The benefit to agencies would be incredible. Coupled with a new generation of AI-enabled automation solutions also helping to handle simple requests, they could focus the attention of their employees on only the hardest of cases, ones in which tutorials couldn’t provide the answers they need. This would free up agency staff to help the most in-demand constituents while also helping them focus on accomplishing the agency’s larger mission.
By helping constituents visualize the processes and procedures they need to follow to apply for programs and get constituent services, agencies can become more efficient and more effective – even at a time when they have to do more with less.