Moving beyond the basics of digital government with personalization

People are at the center of everything the government does. In their daily lives as well as in critical moments of need, people rely on government services to support them through disasters, advance their businesses, provide opportunities for their families, obtain public health updates, safeguard their rights, and aid them in rebuilding their communities.

Between March 2020 and March 2021, there were more than 20 billion visits to federal government websites alone, representing a 57% lift over pre-pandemic levels.

The trend continues as the public looks toward government to help them deal with the ongoing societal, economic, and public health aftershocks of the pandemic. A recent survey of 1,000 US residents conducted by Adobe and Deloitte Digital — citizens, residents, teachers, businesses, and other constituent groups are searching for public information an average of 1–2 times per week, mostly through government websites.

With the public’s digital expectations rising — due to the consumer-like experiences they’re accustomed to in the private sector — the time to invest in digital customer experiences for all is now.

The growing digital demand

Moving Beyond the Basics of Digital Government with Personalization reveals the public’s unshakeable appetite for timely and accessible digital experiences.

“4 out of 5 respondents rely on digital methods to get government information about public services. Yet, 74% report frustration with accessing information online about government services.”

Meeting this demand will require government to leverage modern technologies to connect the right person to the right information and service, on the right device and channel, at the right time in their journey.

It starts with personalization. Through simple, seamless, secure, equitable, and responsive digital experiences that put people first, you can create a path toward greater agency efficiency and build public trust.

What is personalization in government?

Personalization draws on data the public has voluntarily shared with the government, informed by people’s online behavior, to tell a clear story of who they are and what they need. A personalization strategy allows agencies to create responsive content in a person’s preferred language to meet individuals where they are with the next recommended information, service, and action.

Personalization in government digitizes paper-based processes and automates enrollment and document workflows to enable self-service and drive operational efficiency.

With effective personalization, agencies can encourage adoption of government services, reduce friction in the online experience, increase trust and satisfaction around government interactions, enhance delivery outcomes, and lessen the administrative burden for employees from paper and manual processes and customer call center interactions.

When presented with examples of personalization options, 8 in 10 people surveyed indicated they would be equally or more likely to use personalized government services, with interest highest in the ability to remember prior interactions when logged in as well as in offline experiences.

Four pillars of personalization in government

So how exactly can agencies achieve this North Star vision?

Based on decades of technology research, development, integration, and practice, Adobe has identified four key pillars that can help agencies deliver simple, seamless, secure, equitable, and responsive experiences in government.

Pillar 1: Data and insights

Data is the foundation for understanding customer context and needs. This requires integrated data ingestion, governance for where data can and can’t be used, and a unified profile that can be activated across channels in real-time. Siloed data across disparate systems and the customer journey inhibits collection and insight generation.

Having a customer data platform and a CRM solution helps agencies combine known and unknown customer data in real time for holistic, up-to-date profiles that are accessible via any channel. The first step connects data on the front end with back-end disparate systems. This allows agencies to streamline workflows with unified profiles to create a sole source of truth and discover insights for long-term personalization and connected experiences.

By tapping into its unified customer records, you can segment customers based on demographics, transactional and behavioral data or use cases to accelerate decision-making, instantly evaluate content and activate the digital experience.

In 2020, the Census Bureau used data and insights to power the delivery, measurement, and personalization of the first-ever online census. The challenge at hand was not only to increase awareness of the census, but to drive census completion rates with personalized digital experiences.

Using analytics and engagement tools, the Census Bureau monitored web usage, outbound communications, and audience behavior using metrics and methods like abandonment rates and A/B testing to identify which content wasn’t working or where in the customer journey individuals were leaving the website. During the pandemic, this proved to be especially critical to successfully completing the census on time when enumerators were not able to go door to door. After implementing modern analytics and engagement tools, the Census Bureau was able to achieve a nearly 100% completion rate for all U.S. households in the 2020 census — up from 74% in 2010.

Pillar 2: Dynamic content management

Constituents expect fast, compelling content on all devices and across all channels. But meeting a customer’s expectations on their journey from awareness to advocacy is easier said than done.

Static and hard-to-find content creates friction between customer needs and government services designed to meet those needs. This can lead to increased call center interactions and paper processing and decreased public trust in government.

To counteract this challenge, agencies must focus on building trust. This means ensuring information is accurate, prioritizing ease of use and accessibility (including offering preferred language options for people with limited English proficiency), storing data ethically, and making it easy for customers to connect with a contact center representative when they need more information.

With the need to personalize experiences at so many different touchpoints, even seasoned creative and communication teams struggle with creating, managing, and delivering content at the pace of digital demand. Agency departments and program offices often report issues such as:

Agencies are trying to piece together content stuck on hard drives or in email across various silos. And it’s nearly impossible to keep track of the latest approved versions, translations, regulatory or legal updates, and expiring rights on copyrighted material. Collaborating with creative departments takes time. All functions within an agency need a way to create and curate content from a variety of sources.

Additionally, departments need a way to easily assemble and deliver rich media content without waiting for assistance from IT. This will ensure that experiences are consistent across all channels and optimized for all screen sizes and devices.

The County of Los Angeles Department of Public Social Services (LADPSS) provides programs and services to help over 10 million residents, many of whom are low-income. LAPDSS experienced significant challenges in managing its digital presence, coordinating its content management, and gaining insights into its visitors’ needs.

Adobe partnered with LADPSS to create a digital roadmap, transition from text-heavy and static webpages to more dynamic and personalized content. The agency was able to streamline the site and reduce the number of pages from 600 to 200 while making it easier to find content and search for essential services. As a result, LADPSS saw a 66% improvement in content efficiency and a significant reduction in content delivery timelines. Most importantly, it gained a more data-driven, complete picture of its residents’ digital and social needs.

Pillar 3: Omnichannel journeys

The end-to-end customer journey puts the public front and center by orchestrating content in line with transactional, behavioral and profile data. The inability to deliver seamless, relevant, cross-channel and cross-device experiences results in dissatisfied customers who are less likely to engage with government for their service needs.

The public experience measures across the journey — including outreach — and automatically optimized based on testing. A person who abandons a web-based form may be targeted with an email or text to remind them to complete the form. Based on a person’s unified profile and browsing behavior, the person may be advised to access information or seek a recommended service in another department.

There are infinite possibilities for orchestrating and optimizing an experience across many or all of your channels. A person could be served an ad on their phone via a department’s social media site. With one click, they go to a mobile-responsive web-based form. Based on questions they submit or information they require, they can connect with a customer service representative via a chatbot or instant messaging for help completing the form. Often, only one or two channels matter when it comes to personalized and connected experiences.

The State of Oklahoma partnered with Adobe to personalize notifications and improve user experiences with optimized journeys. The public had a poor perception of the digital experience the state offered on its website — a clear misalignment with the governor’s promise of Oklahoma becoming a top-10 state for customer satisfaction. Adobe and Oklahoma embarked on a mission to implement a centralized web content management system and orchestrate communication across email, SMS and push notifications to deliver consistent journeys that built trust among residents. As a result, Oklahoma migrated 25 of the state’s websites and over 30,000 pages. This allowed the state to provide residents with optimized, personalized, cross-channel experiences.

Pillar 4: Automated digitized process

The public spends an estimated 9 billion hours a year navigating federal agencies’ paper-based and manual processes, according to the 2021 White House Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government. This results in an inability for customers to complete forms online as well as lower employee productivity.

Departments may improve digital enrollment for their services by creating intelligent, web-based forms across channels without relying on IT. By tapping into automation, agencies can enable digital self-service, increase trust and confidence with the public, and reduce administrative burden and the “time” tax on employees. At the same, they can gain better insights from enrollment data to recommend next best actions.

Plus, using e-signatures and integrating back-end systems with data can support end-to-end digitization, storage, and processing.

The State of California Department of Public Health (CDPH) — which serves 40 million residents — used paper applications to license 30,000 of the state’s medical facilities. This led to heavy workloads, long processing times, and significant backlogs. For physicians applying for clinic licenses, this resulted in an overall poor customer experience that was lengthy and frustrating.

Adobe partnered with CDPH on a forms modernization project to automate paper-based processes with ADA-compliant digital forms and automated workflows. This led to increased efficiencies, improved digital experiences and happier physicians and residents.

Rethinking roadblocks

Legislation is clearing the way. The White House’s Executive Order mandates a focus on modernized services that are simple to use, equitable, transparent, protective, and responsive. The EO also calls out specific examples for more personalized experiences in government.

For example, the Department of Health and Human Services is tasked with designing and delivering new, personalized online tool options for Medicare enrollees. Meanwhile, the Department of Veterans Affairs will provide veterans with on-demand support through personalized online chat with a virtual or live agent.

Additionally, the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA) tasks agencies with improving the digital customer experience by modernizing websites using human-centered design methodologies, digitizing agency services and forms, updating mobility capabilities, and accelerating the use of electronic signatures.

But cost, data privacy, and security issues remain. Personalization is scalable and includes maturity models of varying costs and complexity. This allows agencies to start small with modern commercial off-the-shelf solutions. Meanwhile, FedRAMP-certified personalization solutions meet or exceed the security requirements of most agency workloads.

While broad adoption of personalization in government is in its early days, Adobe Experience Cloud can help accelerate government’s digital modernization journey. Aligning to Adobe’s personalization in government maturity framework can help agencies prioritize and push the easy button on exceptional customer experiences.

A picture containing timeline Description automatically generated

Personalization in government drives customer engagement and results. Through content collaboration and digital asset management, you can enable the content velocity required to keep pace with public need. Data and omni-channel journeys provides intelligence-based decisioning across all touchpoints with next-best action. Digitized and automated process future-proof user design so agencies can easily create new experiences and service new needs.

Learn how we’re helping governmentdeliver more personalized experiences.