Mind the gap: self-service vs. assisted-service
While I was at the Ohio Digital Government Summit this week, I was reminded of the challenge governments have balancing self-service channels vs. assisted service channels. My co-presenter discussed some statistics on citizen Internet usage from Connect Ohio’s 2010 technology assessment survey (see survey here). There were a couple items in this data that highlighted the situation governments face when optimizing channel interactions with constituents.
First, the stats showed that there is a significant gap between the number of people that transact online with the private sector vs. with the public sector. In the survey, about 60% of Ohioans transact online with companies. In particular, 74% will buy something online and 62% will bank online. But far fewer people transact online with government—only 45%. This gap suggests there is excess demand vs. usable supply of online government services. It seems reasonable that the same number of people would be willing to bank online as they would be willing to use online government services. And, because online self-service is usually cheaper to operate than assisted-service channels, this suggests a fair bit of untapped cost saving potential available to governments still.
The second interesting stat in the survey was that 12% of people don’t use the Internet at all. This just highlights the reality that governments don’t get to pick and choose their customers. They must still provide offline transaction options for citizens that won’t use online channels. So, while there might be pent up savings to be gained by offering more online services, government still needs to think about how to make assisted channels more efficient. Government can’t completely avoid assisted channels like call centers or branch offices. But if you have been following this blog, you’ll know there are ways to improve efficiency here too (see this example)
These survey results are obviously just for Ohio. But the idea remains the same in other jurisdictions. And while the data may not be a shocking surprise, it does serve as a reminder of the channel challenge facing government. There are untapped efficiency gains to be had by increasing adoption of online channels for government services. But the public sector must also balance this against increasing efficiency of the necessary assisted channels.