The Gallery: “Super Users” in New York Point to Future of Online Government Services

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Over the last several years, digital experiences have improved dramatically, becoming much broader, faster and more efficient. Today, consumers have access to personalized content and product recommendations, one-click ordering and customer service that moves seamlessly from in-store to smartphone to laptop.

These advances have had a considerable impact on customer expectations, both inside and outside of the commercial realm. In the past, people have often held private and public sectors organizations to different digital standards, demanding more from their banks, retailers or healthcare providers than from government. But as quality digital experiences have become standard in commercial industries, the gap between what people expect in their daily lives and what they will accept from government has narrowed.

Recent Accenture research found that almost 90 percent of New Yorkers expect the same or higher quality digital services from government as from private sector organizations. And not just ‘basic’ services; New York respondents also want advanced functionality from government, such as personalized digital experiences (58 percent) and alerts via social media, text and email (66 percent). These numbers suggest that “good enough for government” is becoming obsolete.

New York City has been among the leading U.S. cities in striving to deliver quality digital services to residents. In the summer of 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled the “NYC Digital Services Playbook,” a roadmap for city government on how to use emerging technologies to make their services more accessible and convenient for its 8.4 million inhabitants. In addition to emphasizing mobile engagement, the playbook encourages agencies to embrace service design principles, aligning the service development process more closely with peoples’ needs.

To keep pace with more complex demands, New York’s state and local government leaders must develop a deeper understanding of evolving digital habits, preferences and priorities.

A growing segment of highly digital citizens, revealed by Accenture’s research, may be the key to understanding the future of government services. Termed “Digital Super Users,” this group conducts almost half of its interactions with government through digital channels, opting for websites, email, texting, apps or social media, rather than in-person office visits, telephone, or traditional mail. In New York, 28 percent of respondents fall into this category.

Generally younger, slightly more affluent, and avid consumers of social media and mobile apps, Digital Super Users are a strong indicator of where the general population is moving and can provide insight into how government should plan investments. If government wants to know future values and expectations, it needn’t look further than today’s Digital Super Users.

Digital Super Users are more likely to demand a better-than-commercial digital experience from government, including assurance of privacy and security, the ability to check the status of a request, and the ability to log into multiple agencies through one account. They expect the same, seamless experience when renewing their driver’s license as when buying and tracking orders on Amazon or using social media.

While Digital Super Users generally have a favorable view of digital government services, they become more frustrated and dissatisfied when content is not user-friendly. Half of respondents from New York listed poor search functionality as their biggest challenge when using government digital services. This echoes commercial industries; the e-commerce focused Baymard Institute recently found that more than a quarter of U.S. online shoppers have abandoned an order in the past three months solely due to a “too long or too complicated checkout process.” And for 75 percent of respondents in New York, privacy and security concerns are the most important factor in creating a positive digital experience with government.

The truth is that government aspirations to implement digital strategies are lagging. As many as half of leaders surveyed nationwide said that their organizations won’t be pursuing digital transformation in the foreseeable future. Why? More than one-third of leaders cited lack of vision, although most also cited barriers relate to execution, including lack of in-house talent, inability to make the business case, technology limitations and lack of resources to drive change.

For government agencies to meet the evolving expectations of those they serve, they must become digital-first organizations. This involves making concerted investments in digital infrastructure and embracing proven user-centric service design principles that put people at the heart of the problem-solving process. Likewise, agencies should look to commercial leaders for digital adoption best practices; many have had to rapidly evolve to avoid being overtaken by innovative competitors.

In line with the high expectations of NY citizens, government agencies in the Empire State are well positioned to take a leadership role in the development of people-centric digital services. The state has both a responsibility and a tremendous opportunity to plan and prepare for when every New Yorker will be a Digital Super User.

By Deborah Snyder, Accenture, Managing Director for State of New York

Methodology Note: Accenture conducted an online survey of 3,300 voting-age citizens and interviews with 118 public service leaders in 16 states, representing all regions of the United States, including California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas. Surveys and interviews were conducted in March 2016.

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