A citizen self-service portal can help government agencies work more efficiently and provide improved user experiences
- Governments can offer self-service through web, mobile, apps and IVR systems
- Citizen self-service requires systems integration, a customized platform, onboarding and marketing guidance, a secure payment process and ongoing customer support
- Citizens can save time paying bills and taxes, store digital government documents securely and get quick answers to their questions
- Governments can get real-time visibility into unified payment and records data, access revenue faster, communicate quickly with citizens and save employee time on payments and records requests
With improved technology comes more ways for state and local governments to serve their constituency. The appetite for user-centric solutions for completing transactions or making payments—a la PayPal and Venmo—is growing. For example, 67% prefer to pay one-time bills through an app or website, according to a recent consumer study.
At the same time, in-person transactions, paper checks and paying by mail are in decline—and 56% of organizations say most of their revenue will come from digital channels by 2024, according to the Salesforce 2021 State of Commerce report.
With a self-service government payment system that constituents can use anytime, government organizations can give citizens the user experience they have grown accustomed to, while letting them pay their bills in a way that drives more efficiency, reduces costs and offers faster time to revenue than traditional billing options.
What’s involved in setting up a self-service system? Here’s an overview of the process.
Identifying the government payment services to offer and the channels for citizens to use
Government organizations typically start their self-service portal with use cases from one department or agency—such as utility services—and then expand to other departments with property taxes, business licenses, tolling, vehicle and driver services or court fines and fees.
More than one government entity or agency can offer services on the same portal. For example, the State of Kansas’ self-service portal, iKan, includes services from two state agencies and two counties, with the capacity to add more. That creates a more convenient experience for residents.
“iKan provides Kansas with a native GovCloud application, cross-agency integration and the ability for any level of government to live within the web or mobile app experience.”
The organization also needs to identify the channels their citizens will use to access the new self-service portal. Core channels include a white-labeled website that’s optimized for computers and mobile devices and native Apple and Android mobile apps.
Both of these channels can feature a virtual customer assistant (VCA), such as a conversational chatbot, to guide users through paying bills, looking up records and getting answers to their questions.
“Organizations report a reduction of up to 70% in call, chat and/or email inquiries after implementing a VCA, according to Gartner research. They also report increased customer satisfaction and a 33% saving per voice engagement.”
Adding an interactive voice response (IVR) phone system makes self-service accessible to citizens who lack internet access or who have difficulty using computers and smartphones.
With the platform’s initial services and service channels identified, it’s time to look at implementation.
Implementing a secure self-service government payment solution
Next comes the part that many agencies find daunting: integrating the back-end systems for the services they want to offer into a compliant and secure government payment platform. Working with an experienced GovTech provider is the most efficient way to integrate their legacy systems and create a branded web portal, mobile app and digital wallet.
The digital wallet is the key to an effective user experience, because it allows citizens to securely store their payment data, check their billing and payment history, set up automatic payments and hold digital copies of their important documents.
“In the U.S., before the pandemic hit, less than 38% of Americans surveyed said they were using digital wallets to make purchases more or as often as the year before. As the economy began to reopen, that number has jumped to 55%.”
The digital wallet app and payment processor must be PCI compliant and connect to a payment gateway that enables the government agency to accept payments securely in real-time.
Integrating support into the portal is also important. In addition to a conversational chatbot, your platform provider may offer customer service and technical support by email and phone for citizens and agency employees.
Your government technology solution provider should also provide marketing support to create public awareness campaigns, including digital and print assets, to let residents know they have new convenient options for taking care of their government business.
The integrations, platform development and support resources are just the beginning. Your government technology provider should also handle ongoing maintenance, security updates and technology upgrades to ensure that the new portal keeps up with evolving best practices for service, compliance and citizen experience.
Providing a better citizen experience with self-service
Self-service delivers plenty of benefits for residents who use it. The most obvious benefit is time savings. Digital and IVR system self-service lets citizens avoid waiting on hold, writing checks and standing in line to pay in person.
Helping residents save time and reduce stress
With multiple government services offered through the same portal, residents can also skip the hassle of visiting and logging into multiple websites to pay bills, check account balances and request paper copies of important documents.
Accessing important documents
The resident’s digital wallet becomes a secure storage locker for authorized digital copies of key documents and licenses.
“ iKan allows Kansans to hold valid, digital versions of vehicle registrations that can be accessed right from their phones.”
Budgeting more effectively
Automatic bill payment options within the digital wallet and upcoming payment reminders sent through the app, via text or by email help residents avoid missed payments and save money on late fees.
The wallet also makes budgeting easier by showing constituents their payment history so they can track their spending on government services. By including a managed pay feature in the wallet, agencies can let residents break large bills into smaller monthly payments—another helpful budgeting tool.
Getting trustworthy information
The government services portal also serves as a reliable source of information about office hours, available services and even emergency information that agencies can share on the website and through the app with push notifications.
All of these benefits combine to give citizens the kind of user experience that improves satisfaction with government services.
“Ease of completing a service online and efficiency, or amount of time to do so, both strongly correlate to satisfaction and trust in websites and services completed online.”
Performance.gov, “What we have learned from Federal customers in FY2020”
Optimizing government operations through citizen self-service
A well-designed self-service portal also helps government agencies work more efficiently, save money and generate more revenue online.
More on-time revenue collection
AutoPay and quick one-time payment options through the digital wallet software can improve the rate of on-time payments for government services. Real-time payment processing also shortens the speed-to-revenue, so agencies can access funds faster. Automated reconciliation of accounts can save organizations hours of employee time each week while reducing the risk of accounting errors.
“$425+ million in total online revenue collected since launch… a 92% increase in online revenue collected year-over-year (Q4 ‘20 vs. Q4 ‘19)”
Lower billing and payment processing costs
Agencies can save on a number of costs related to billing and processing, including the costs of:
- Printing and mailing paper bills
- Handling mail-in check payments
- Printing and mailing copies of citizens’ documents
- Spending time on the phone taking payments and looking up citizen information
- Keying in card transactions over the phone or from mailed-in forms, resulting in higher processing costs
- Sending late-payment notices and issuing warrants for non-payment in error, after payments have been made
Better operational efficiency
Self-service payment portals provide a lot of useful data for planning, including real-time visibility for immediate insights into tax payments, licensing revenue, utility bill payments and more. Over time, this data can be analyzed to identify trend lines for organization and program budget planning.
Sharing updates and notices through the portal with residents can also reduce public confusion if office hours or services need to change, such as during a winter storm or public health emergency. That can lead to a better employee experience, because front-line workers have to answer fewer calls about updates or deal with as many citizens who are frustrated by changes they weren’t aware of.
“1 in 3 Kansans have an iKan citizen profile.”
Strengthening payment security and compliance
Web applications are the most common channel of attack against public administration organizations, according to the Verizon 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report.
Verizon 2020 DBIR
A self-service platform that’s built on AWS GovCloud for compliance and with a PCI Level 1 compliant payment gateway can help governments prevent the kinds of damage caused by data breaches, including financial losses, regulatory penalties and damage to public trust.
Building positive relationships between government and citizens
When citizens can take care of their government business quickly and conveniently, manage their bills better and get reliable information, their opinion of their government improves.
When state and local governments can save money and improve efficiency, they can offer better services and new innovations to keep strengthening the bond between their agency and the public they serve.
“Digital modernization efforts improve both trust and satisfaction… Regarding authentication, accessing protected data by logging in resulted in higher satisfaction. Personalized experiences, using login and profile solutions, are common in the private sector and agencies using these technologies appear to be benefiting from them.”
Performance.gov, “What we have learned from Federal customers in FY2020”
A digital government self-service platform is key to both a better constituent experience and greater government efficiency.
Your self-service government payment solution is within reach
PayIt can help you integrate your back-end systems of record into a secure, compliant platform for citizen self-service that launches in 90 days or less, at no cost to your government agency.
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