A range of ‘behavioural interventions’ can increase the use of online government services as well as customer satisfaction, new research shows.
Making online the default, providing technical support and emphasising the benefits of digital services are among the ways governments can achieve higher usage of their online services.
That’s according to a forthcoming Australian study that is among the first to test whether “behavioural interventions” can encourage greater use of online government services.
The interventions also led to greater customer satisfaction among those who used online government services, according to the Monash University researchers.
The study, conducted at two VicRoads customer service centres, compared the use of the interventions among residents seeking to change their address with Victoria’s roads and traffic authority. Currently, VicRoads processes about 900,000 such transactions a year.
At one site, the use of an Applie iPad became the default way to change one’s address, which was backed up with on-site support staff and “motivational messages” that conveyed the ease and benefits of completing the task online.
The second site, where none of the interventions were in place, acted as a control.
Some 5,500 people participated in the study, which was conducted over four months from late 2016 to early 2017.
The research, to be published in the journal Government Information Quarterly, found the interventions “significantly increased use of the online service,” witnessed in a 14 per cent boost in usage, while also significantly reducing use of the customer service centres.
The study also found that customers who used the iPad reported “extremely high levels” of satisfaction, liking in particular “the speed, ease and queue-jumping benefits” of the e-government service.
“This indicates that the intervention used here was not only effective in increasing usage of e-government service, it was also very well received by customers,” say the study authors, Nicholas Faulkner and Bradley Jorgensen of BehaviourWorks and Georgina Koufariotis of VicRoads.
They say the findings also support the use of marketing messages promoting the ease of use and swiftness of online channels to direct citizens to take up digital services.
The findings will be helpful to governments in overcoming low usage of online services, the researchers say.
“Our intervention provides a model that can be used by governments to design interventions aimed at increasing the likelihood that citizens will use e-government and want to continue doing so.”
In terms of how governments can best use such interventions to boost usage of digital services, Dr Faulker says agencies could look at their processes to identify where they can change defaults to direct people online.
“In this case, it was changing the default behaviour of concierges at a customer service centre. Rather than having them put customers in a queue, they directed them to some iPads. There’d be similar opportunities for many other agencies that also use customer service centres,” he told Government News.
Dr Faulker added that it may also be possible to use a similar approach with call centres.
“For example, call centre operators could first ask customers if they’d like the operator to show them how to self-serve online, so they don’t have to wait on hold in the future.”
The messages used in the study provide an example that can be used by other government agencies when promoting their digital services, Dr Faulkner said. “When promoting digital services, government agencies should both emphasise their usefulness, and show how easy they are to use,” he said.
Acknowledging that their research examined the use of multiple interventions combined, the researchers suggest future studies could look at determining which individual techniques are most effective.
They also suggest other studies could investigate the extent to which such interventions could encourage use of government online services in other service delivery areas.
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