A trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles (or DMV) in just about any of the US 50 States is an eye-opening experience. I was only surrendering license plates and making a transaction, but as the line of citizens grew and snaked its way outside of and around the building, I knew I was about to hear a story or two. One gentleman was standing in line just to ask a question about a traffic violation in the nearby state of New York. The obvious question, since we are in Connecticut, is: why not call the DMV of New York City. Well, that set off a 15 minute run of apoplexy. He had been caught in a speed trap on the interstate by a local NYC police radar. It was an empty, clear, straight stretch of road, and he had the iPhone camera shots to prove it, but should he fight the violation and reduce the fine and ‘Points’ or plead ‘Guilty?’ Two wasted hours later, he had failed to reach any of the NYC Department of Traffic Safety’s eight (8!) phone numbers. None of the eight lines answered after two hours and 20 attempts. So he went to the website. The search engine and his own further wasted tour of the website found nothing for “out of State” or any other rules that might apply to him. Finally he found a lawyer in New York who suggested that he put himself out of his misery and just go into the DMV and ask in person. And here he was, missing hours of work. And I wondered, looking at his photos of the open, empty road, wouldn’t BI / analytics told the local police that perhaps, just perhaps, there were better ways to guarantee ‘road safety’ than to find an empty patch on the highway and trap out-of-towners just trying to get home? Just saying – aren’t resources constrained and expensive?
The stories went on and on. I was in an hour-long queue which led to a clerk who gave me a number to stand in another queue. So this first hour of waiting was to earn the right to queue in another line. And the young woman behind me was waiting for a driver’s test, and she showed me the mobile app for the DMV which was more DOA (dead on arrival). Not navigable. Unhelpful. And then she showed me the website to register for the test via her iPad, and that was all happy and upbeat and “Make an appointment any time Monday – Friday between 8AM – 4PM!” with a web link. And when she pressed the link, it takes one to another site that warns, “the best time to call is Thursdays from 11AM – 2PM.” aaaaaaaaargh, and eye-rolling. Welcome to adulthood.
As I spend quite a bit of time speaking to government agencies around the world, the US government websites stand out in their massive silos. Every country, city, State, and branch of the Federal Government has its own website format, search tools, process flows, font selection, and consistency or lack of consistency with the other channels. Web does not match mobile app which does not match in-office kiosk, or employee portal.
Living next to Yale University allows access to some serious Grey Matter. Asking some of the scholars in government and Public Policy why there couldn’t be more uniformity in user interface, process flows, shared terms, tools, and applications to engage customers/citizens, I realized once again why they call academics Ivory Tower denizens. “Ah, you don’t understand the fundamental rights granted, for example, to Connecticut dating back to 1639 and the Fundamental Agreement of the New Haven Colony….” and you, I thought, do not understand the lyrics of The Times They are a Changin.’ Government IT leaders know this, yet their hands are tied, to an extent.
As with so many organizations, companies, and enterprises, the bigger issue comes down to philosophy: what is our purpose in existing in the first place, and how is that shaped by our ethics and values? Let’s call it Ontology meets Axiology. If the government is to serve the people, then it would create Personae that match the different constituents and engineer the systems from the citizens’ different perspectives. Social Security would be different from DMV and the Courts and Taxes and Fishing Licenses, and also for the different types of ‘customer.’ The systems would not be designed based on an internal understanding of what the ‘customer’ should experience. And there would be measurement, measurement, measurement to continually test how well the government is doing. And we would think beyond the cobwebs of precedent into the possibilities of the Inferential of ‘for the people': what are the needs of today’s citizens, and how can governments think like Consortia – are there shared elements of design and process flow and technology choice and persona that could be shared?
It is all a reflection of values. The technology solutions are there, right now.
OK, time is up. Two hours later and I’m at the front of the real queue to accomplish the five minutes of interaction with the clerk.
We will be discussing many of these issues of customer engagement and customer experience next week down in Orlando, Florida (19-21st May). If you can, get there! Two + days of great speakers, great content, and great peer-interaction…. http://www.gartner.com/technology/summits/na/customer-360/
I already know that I will see many of your there.
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