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How can local and state governments deal with these four trends in 2021?

Citizen Engagement

A unified digital solution for citizen experience management is key

After a year of disruption and hardship for citizens–and major challenges for government organizations–2021 has started with a mix of uncertainty and hope. Many local governments and state agencies are reviewing their budgets, projected revenues and operations to plan for how to proceed as the pandemic and recession seem poised to relent.

Despite the unclear timeline for relief from the problems of 2020, one thing is clear: Things will be different going forward.

“The next normal is going to be different. It will not mean going back to the conditions that prevailed in 2019. Indeed, just as the terms “pre-war” and “post-war” are commonly used to describe the 20th century, generations to come will likely discuss the pre-COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 eras.”

McKinsey & Company, The next normal arrives.

The reason for the permanent shift? For many people–especially those who preferred to visit stores in person and pay with cash or checks–behavior and expectations had to change fast out of necessity during 2020’s pandemic restrictions. Many retailers and other organizations adapted quickly to meet and reinforce those new needs and habits by implementing or improving their digital engagement so people could shop and work more safely.

Now, those new expectations for customer experiences are here to stay. Citizens want convenience across all of their interactions and employees expect to have access to modern tools at work. Implementing citizen-centric digital government solutions now is the first step in what will be an always-evolving user experience that will require integrated, secure data systems and a continuously updated digital platform to meet constituents’ needs and help employees do their jobs.

Here are four key trends we see driving the need for digital government transformation in 2021.

Trend #1: Citizens want digital wallet payment options and a unified digital experience

The average person is now getting more comfortable with technology as a way of completing more traditional, in-person interactions and many of them are opting for digital wallets as a secure and convenient way to make digital payments. Total consumer spending via digital wallets will top $10 trillion globally by 2025, an 83% growth rate over 2020.

More than half of citizens wanted that same kind of one-stop convenience when accessing government services even before the pandemic. Now, after a year of heavy digital engagement with merchants and service providers that number is likely to be higher.

“51% of citizens would increase use of government digital services if offered a single portal to access multiple services.”

Accenture Citizen Survey 2019

To meet constituents’ expectations for digital engagement and convenient payment, government agencies can offer a digital wallet that users can access securely through a computer or smartphone. Citizens can also use the digital wallet at government offices if those offices install terminals that support contactless payments.

With a digital wallet in place, governments can link multiple services, departments and agencies to the payment platform to create a single digital hub for

  • Vehicle registrations
  • Tolling and turnpike payments
  • Driver’s license renewals
  • Property tax payments
  • Professional license payments
  • Court fees and fines
  • Utility bills
  • Vital record and HHS requests

The wallet can also serve as a secure digital storage locker for citizen’s important documents, like their driver’s license, vehicle registration, park passes and occupational licenses, so they’re always at hand when needed.

Digital wallet technology makes government transactions easier and more accessible for citizens. It also helps government offices work more efficiently. By digitizing payments, agencies can reduce the amount of time employees spend handling paper bills, processing transactions manually in person or over the phone and creating and mailing out paper copies of documents.

With a secure, end-to-end digital process for taking care of these transactions, agencies can eliminate some requirements for in-person visits, like at the driver’s license office. That saves everyone even more time. Digital payments, processed in real-time, also speed up time-to-revenue and support automated reconciliation, saving even more staff hours.

Learn how PayIt’s Digital Wallet technology helped the City of St. Louis create a one-stop hub for paying taxes, utility bills and municipal court tickets.

Trend #2: Governments need to get maximum value from tighter budgets

Public-health-related business closures and restrictions, coupled with last year’s wave of unemployment, reduced tax revenues for governments in many places. The Brookings Institution projected that state and local governments lost $155 billion in 2020 and will lose $167 billion and $145 billion in 2021 and 2022, respectively. These numbers indicate that it will take some time for budgets to return to pre-pandemic levels.

However, state and local governments must still serve citizens, control costs and bring in revenue as efficiently as possible. By digitizing billing and payments, agencies can send payment-due reminders to citizens, offer AutoPay options and make it easy for citizens who need to pay down outstanding balances to do so automatically. These options can maximize revenue collection, increase on-time payments and shorten the time to access for revenue.

Digitization and automation also free up employee time for high-value activities, reduce spending on paper and postage for billing and reduce the number of accounts that go to collection. In addition, they save employee hours and citizen time on important but often tedious tasks like filing changes of address, updating voter registration information and transferring vehicle titles–to name a few.

Learn how the State of Kansas increased its online revenue collection by 92% year-over-year with PayIt.

Trend #3: Safety and accessibility matter more than ever

While we wait for vaccination programs to expand and accelerate, millions of people remain at risk for COVID-19, and experts say it could be summer of 2021 before most Americans can get vaccinated. Until then, lines, crowds and in-person interactions pose a risk of infection for government employees and citizens alike, and demand for contactless payments options will remain high. According to the National Retail Federation, no-touch payments increased 69% from January to August 2020. 57% of consumers now using contactless payments said they’ll continue after the pandemic subsides.

John Thomson quote on smart government solutions

“The cell phone is the digital inclusionary device of our time. We all have the power to conduct business and manage our interactions at any time, from anywhere. Government service delivery should be no different. And especially now, the need to put the safety of constituents at the forefront of operational decisions is crucial. We can help keep people safe while simultaneously giving them the consumer experience they’ve come to expect.”

John Thomson, PayIt CEO

Remote, digital payments and touchless in-person payment options are two keys to reducing close person-to-person interactions and protecting public health. The more streamlined and easy to access these options are, the more likely residents are to use them, which reduces risk for everyone. Digital payment options are also helpful to constituents who have difficulty leaving their homes or accessing other payment options, whether that’s because they live dozens of miles from the nearest government office, can’t afford transportation or don’t have access to traditional banking services.

The safety and accessibility of contactless payments will be valuable to citizens even after the pandemic ends and the reduction in employee hours spent on transactions and manual reconciliation will provide cost savings for agencies going forward.

Learn how the North Carolina DMV decreased in-office wait times by 40% with PayIt.

Trend #4: Citizens need direct, reliable communication from government agencies

Today, successful retailers and service providers keep their customers updated on product stock status, payment reminders, delivery timetables and other key information in real or near real-time. Government organizations can do the same with a unified digital platform, to meet citizens’ expectations for service and convenience.

“85% of citizens expect the same or a higher standard of quality from government services as they do from commercial organizations.”

Accenture Public Service Pulse Survey

Besides convenience, there’s another reason to establish digital communication with constituents: the need to share reliable information quickly during an emergency. One of the major communication hurdles that governments face during crises is coordinating communication among agencies and sharing it with the public, to help them take the proper steps and to counteract misinformation that can spread fast on social media.

During the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of North Carolina used its PayIt platform and email resources to communicate quickly and safely with more than 500,000 citizens about vehicle renewal deadline extensions, vehicle inspection information and other statewide orders.

Having a direct, secure way to communicate with constituents for everyday information raises citizen satisfaction. In an emergency, unified, direct communication government agencies can help protect citizens and build trust.

With a unified digital government services platform, agencies can send out notifications to account holders via text, email and app notifications, to reach as many people as possible during a disaster so they know what’s happening and what steps they should take.

Learn how the State of North Carolina has handled 5.8 million (and counting) digital vehicle registration renewals with PayIt.

Next steps for 2021 and beyond

As 2021 moves us beyond the worst of the pandemic and recession, global recovery will be aided digitally. Smart government organizations that make the digital transformation now and continue to improve their digital experience will see cost savings, increased revenue collection and greater citizen engagement and support. Organizations that rely on pre-2020 processes and information technology will fall further behind in terms of controlling costs, generating revenue and maintaining public support.

Schedule a PayIt demo.