How to Create Positive Customer Experiences in Government Agency Call Centers


It’s no secret that the customer experience at most government call centers needs to be improved. In fact, I’ll bet that most people would say they dread the prospect of calling any government office, and few people expect a convenient and pleasant experience.

Unfortunately, there’s a reason we dread this experience. And, too often our dread is justified. Dropped calls, long wait times and impersonal automated responses are just a few of the many issues that plague these call centers. Then, once you are connected to a “live” agent after that very long wait, it’s likely that the agent will have no idea who you are, and they may seem to have no idea of how to resolve your issue.

Citizens who call a government agency are often already frustrated before they make the call, but an unpleasant call center experience can compound the problem. After the call, you are almost guaranteed to have a negative perception of the agency. Getting lost in an IVR or being forced to rattle off the same basic information to multiple agents can cause callers to lose trust in the agency. Government agencies that rely on call centers as their main source of interaction with the public can develop unfortunate reputations for being rude, understaffed or inept simply based on poor customer experiences.

There is an Alternative

What if you called the Veterans Administration and had a short wait time and a pleasant experience with an agent who knew who you were and rapidly resolved your issue? You would hang up the phone feeling satisfied and relieved, right? I recently received an email from a colleague who shared feedback from a senior manager at one of the largest government agencies in the United States. This senior manager’s feedback was, “Thank you for providing a great solution!”

This agency has a solid reputation for ending the negative perception citizens have about calling a government office. They’ve worked hard to improve the customer experience by doing such things as installing a voice biometrics system that immediately recognizes a caller without annoying passwords and an automated monitoring solution in their production environment that helps them know when issues occur that could impact callers. According to the senior manager, the monitoring solution had recently saved the agency from having a huge black eye and loss of trust from citizens who count on them.

Apparently some changes were made to the agency’s switching infrastructure without everyone being informed. These changes could have caused calls to be dropped or routed into a black hole. In this case, we are talking about potentially hundreds of calls. Imagine that you’ve just gotten a tax statement in error and you can’t reach the agency on the telephone, or your call is routed to a completely different department than the one you are trying to reach. It could cause you to lose trust, especially if this situation lasts very long or happens more than once. After all, you might be tempted to think 'if they can’t manage their phone system, how can they manage the money I pay in taxes? That’s the government for you.’

Instead, the agency’s automated monitoring solution immediately alerted the contact center staff that they had a problem. The IT team was able to react quickly to resolve the issue. This agency’s constituents will never know about this incident and about the steps the agency took to correct the problem. Isn’t that the way it should be? Great customer experiences should be the norm and not the exception. This agency shows that they value their citizens’ time and understand that every phone call is important.

How Can a Government Agency Change?

How then, can other government agencies follow this lead? How can they transform their reputations and remove perceptions of inconvenience and government inefficiency? As a start, agencies can look into using routing solutions to resolve individual inquiries and cut down on wait times. Studies show that the driving forces behind citizen satisfaction with call centers are a streamlined contact center process, positive experience with call representatives, and the effectiveness of the IVR system.

It’s not a surprise that satisfying citizens with positive customer experiences lead to a sense of transparency. Call centers that respond to inquiries effectively and in a timely manner enable government agencies to rebuild trust that may have been eroded in the past. When citizens feel valued and respected after a positive call center experience, a government agency’s ability to solve citizen issues and the opinions citizens have of that agency, and its capabilities can improve dramatically.

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