3 keys to launching a citizen-service revolution

Within five years, cities will become so intelligent that they’ll help their citizens live better lives, according to A Smarter Planet. I agree, but with a big caveat: City leaders must take steps now to connect deeply with their citizens using mobile apps and social media. And then they must analyze the Big Data they collect in ways that help them serve each individual and the community better. The goal is to leverage multiple data sources to establish a clear line of sight to each citizen and his or her personal needs. This is the secret for cities—and intelligent citizen services—of the future. Where to begin? Start today by updating your citizen service solution to include these three capabilities:

1. Advance notifications

Make sure your city’s citizen service system—also known as a citizen or customer relationship management system—provides actionable advance notifications. That way, when a service request comes in from a citizen’s mobile phone or a when a Key Performance Indicator threshold is reached, the right city workers receive immediate alerts about the incident, so they can take action (and use two-way messaging to stay connected to the citizens). In Auckland, New Zealand, citizens now use the MyStreet app to report pot holes, store favorite bus routes, view construction locations, and more. Citizens get better service this way, and the city gets direct insight into each citizen’s needs. Over time, this insight adds up to a complete picture that enables the city to align specific, personalized services to the needs of every citizen.

2. Automated workflows

Check that your citizen service system launches automated workflows that capture, route, and store service requests, and their resolutions, electronically. Your system should provide end-to-end management of digital case files and leverage repeatable patterns to streamline processes across multiple departments. With the exponential growth in data volume, this is the only way to provide the responsiveness citizens need. To Australia’s Domestic Violence Advocacy Service, such responsiveness is essential. By automating its system, the agency drastically reduced the time it takes to provide coordinated legal and medical services to domestic violence victims. The service now takes hours instead of days. And it happens in a cost-effective way that enables the agency to provide more services with less budget.      

3. Social media analysis

Integrate social media data and analysis into your citizen service system. This up-to-the-minute, citizen-provided information gives you a detailed view of citizen attitudes and opinions so you can make better service-related decisions. Washington, DC, did a great job of this with its GradeDC.gov site. Leaders combine site feedback with social media comments to grade each city agency and improve its service. To get really advanced, use social media to do simulations. Pulse social media before you change the bus routes to see what the community thinks. Or monitor social media conversations to gain insights on hot topics—such as inadequate parking—that might impact your city’s economic development. You may never pick this up through traditional channels, but on social networks, citizen trends and attitudes are often freely shared.

Reaching the five-year vision of highly personalized, responsive city services—the kind of intelligent services that help citizens live better lives—requires deliberate progress starting now. By putting these three citizen service capabilities in place today, you’ll get started on the right foot. But don’t stop there. Keep working toward multichannel collaboration. Continue to migrate services to the cloud. Make business intelligence a way of life. And whatever you do, put citizen empowerment first. Engaging citizens in this way is exactly what Microsoft CityNext is all about. I encourage you to check it out as you kick off your citizen service transformation.

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let me know @Microsoft_Gov. Or e-mail us at ongovernment@microsoft.com.

Gary Wachowicz
Industry Managing Director, Worldwide Public Sector