People and processesChange ManagementGreat expectations: are today’s digital citizens being served?

Great expectations: are today’s digital citizens being served?

Can apps help the public sector deliver excellent digital services? And what are the key elements to get right in their development?

Today’s citizens have high expectations from their online experiences. Demands regarding online experiences are significantly higher than just a few years ago. They expect faster response times, zero error rates and easy navigation. When these expectations are not met, negative reactions ensue.

One way councils are attempting to deliver enhanced digital experiences is through apps. Salford City Council, for example, developed a free council app for anyone with an interest in what’s happening in Salford. With the app, residents can do numerous activities including check recycling and bin collection days, browse events listings from across the city and keep up with the latest news. The app also means the council’s contact information is close at hand, as are directions to any library, fitness centre, community centre and other facilities.

Elsewhere, Gloucester City Council developed and implemented a ‘My Council/Report it’ app which allows its customers to utilise mobile technology to identify a range of issues (such as flytipping, dog fouling, graffiti, pot holes etc) and to send real-time information, identifying the nature of an issue, its location and status directly to the council.


Understanding behaviour

Attempts by the public sector to embrace apps have to be applauded – and it’s why a recent research study by AppDynamics is of interest. It analysed the behaviours and emotions of citizens during their online experiences. The data painted a complex picture with user behaviour varying significantly based on factors such as the demographic of the person. Factors such as age, location and gender can add considerably to how frustrated, disappointed or impatient a person becomes.

Understanding online behaviour, and the ways in which people engage with an app, is vital to success. But without the right solutions to extract, monitor and rapidly analyse this data many organisations are left scrambling in the dark. And as apps become more pervasive in people’s lives, this challenge becomes even greater. How can public sector organisations shine a light on the business-critical information about their users which will guarantee satisfaction?


Patience is a virtue, except when it comes to apps

When it comes to response time, every millisecond counts, but as well as slow loading times, poor app performance can manifest itself in a number of other ways. Errors such as being redirected to blank web pages, website outages and crashing apps are just a few of the main offenders that rile people. What’s more, the younger the consumer is, the more likely they are to experience these blunders. Though this is in part down to use – younger people are more willing to try relatively new apps compared to older generations.

Indeed, the research shows that the age group most likely to have a poor online experience is 26-year-olds. But importantly, it appears that as we get older, the less tolerant we become, with 38.8 being the average age at which we will give up on an app if it performs poorly. A possible reason for this could be that with age comes more responsibility, such as family and work, and these take precedence over wasting time with substandard apps.

For digital organisations wanting to make the most of their app experience, the key is to understand ‘user demographics’ – such as age, gender, location, type of devices, etc. – on a granular level. It’s these insights that will allow you to better steer development and release strategy decisions, and fine tune experiences to ensure consumer loyalty.

This is especially important considering we’re in the midst of a digital revolution. Organisations finally have the means to understand the finer details of what makes a great digital experience and can analyse this data quickly with the right application performance and business-centric analytics solutions. They can now have real-time insights in order to help them balance the pressures of pioneering new customer journeys, alongside the need to deliver greater customer service through personalisation, and how to provide a reliable service through robust performance. But knowing which of these to prioritise over the other should be dependent on what consumers are looking for.


The future of app usage

Tomorrow’s apps are expected to become even more ubiquitous than they are today. They’ll no longer be confined to the smartphone or the web browser. Rather, they’ll exist as multiple platforms, through devices such as wearables or IoT-powered home appliances. This will give citizens greater choice and make it easier for organisations to embed services into people’s daily lives.

We’re already seeing consumers embrace this trend, with people relying on their Fitbits, smart thermostats or even smart car navigation systems to get around. We are quickly moving into a world in which apps and software in general, are almost ‘invisible’ to consumers. Meaning that they are so natural to use, consumers take their functionality for granted.

The downside to this is that the more people come to rely on an app for tasks, the higher the expectations they’ll have surrounding quality and performance. And consequently, they’ll experience more disappointment when things go wrong.

The AppDynamics research shows that failures in smart home software, in-car software and wearable software are more likely to drive a negative mindset among consumers. This negativity outweighs the stress caused by traditional app failure. The lesson for every company which provides digital services – and that is pretty much everyone as we are all software companies in the digital economy – is this: promising the world and not delivering on that promise through digital services is a sure-fire way to quickly lose customer trust and brand loyalty.

Without a clear understanding of consumer wants and needs, organisations risk losing their audience to competitors. To prevent this from happening, IT teams need the right application and business insights – which itself is reliant on data being collected quickly and analysed thoroughly.

It’s only with an up-to-date and comprehensive understanding of customer priorities that organisations can steer new update strategies. This won’t only improve the effectiveness of the IT department, but it will make IT an indispensable cog in the strategic machine of the wider digital set-up.

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