The results of a national survey recently released by the Pew Research Center reveals that favorable approval ratings for state and local government continued this year while opinions of the federal government hit a new low. The survey conducted this March with 1,501 adults from all 50 states resulted in positive ratings across party lines for state and local governments overall, but the lowest percentage ever of favorable opinions for the federal government. Just 28% rated the federal government favorably, down five points from last year’s survey, while 63% had a favorable opinion of local government and 57% looked well on their state government.
The survey provides detailed breakdowns on approval ratings across levels of government, including how a decrease in approval from both Democratic and Republican citizens has hurt public opinion of the federal government. Other ratings centered around the state and local level, where partisan makeup of state government matters but governments get similarly positive ratings across party lines for politically divided state governments. How can government agencies and organizations respond to new information and sometimes-critical public opinion?
Improving public opinion and customer service to citizens at all levels hinges on improving communication and collaboration both within party lines and across them, and within government and externally with the public. The federal government can answer negative feedback by placing a renewed focus on citizen customer service, responsiveness and collaboration. For government organizations at all levels, improving visibility to citizen needs and leveraging new tools and technologies to respond to those opportunities can assist in getting a handle on citizen perception and delivering real-time solutions in today’s world.
While the Pew research sheds light on citizen opinions, a recent GovDelivery survey identifies trends within government including collaboration, customer service, mobile government, big data and cybersecurity at the local, state and federal levels. Over 400 individuals in U.S. state and local government organizations and over 200 individuals in U.S. federal agencies and departments were surveyed, and the results are enlightening for any government organization looking to enhance their work with the public. The top trends that will impact government organizations at every level include mobile government, customer service and collaboration:
Mobile Government and Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD)
For government organizations, mobile access to government information and services has become more important than ever on both internal and external fronts. Internal access to applications and data through employee’s own devices can improve responsiveness to citizen needs and reduce costs to provide devices to government employees. External information distribution through mobile technologies and applications is on the rise, too.
A survey by Foresee in 2012 reported that one-third of citizens accessing federal government website are logging in from phones or tablets, and utilizing mobile technology can be critical for communicating time-sensitive messages and alerts. While more than half of GovDelivery’s survey respondents listed mobile/BYOD as a top trend, only 39 percent at the federal level said their agencies were currently addressing the issue. Especially in light of a new mandate from the Digital Government Strategy for federal agencies to enable mobile access to priority customer-facing services, federal government needs to find new ways to engage with both citizens and internal employees to maximize collaboration and improve customer satisfaction.
At the state and local level, organizations face similar challenges in implementing internal mobile access through platforms like BYOD and cloud computing and sharing information with mobile-enabled external channels like SMS and mobile apps. Mobile technologies are being embraced by government employees and citizens at a fast pace, creating opportunities for communication and generating new requirements for processes and policies just as quickly. Getting a handle on mobile and personal devices is becoming a requirement for all types of government organizations that prioritize customer service and collaboration.
Renewed Focus on Citizen Customer Service
As citizens’ perspectives shift on the federal government, the federal organizations have felt the pressure to prioritize quality citizen customer service. Focus around customer service has led to the Digital Government Strategy mandate around improving customer service through digital technologies; however, only half of the surveyed federal government workers reported using social media to communicate with the public. Meanwhile, over 60% county and state employees and almost 80% of city employees are using social media to share information. The federal government can capitalize on this untapped opportunity by turning to social media, SMS, email and apps to deliver integrated communications and customer service in the coming year.
State and local agencies working with lean budgets and close relationships with constituents and taxpayers need to put communication with customers first. Prioritizing customer service through digital channels like social media, email and text messaging facilitates broad communication with citizens and helps these organizations zero in on “low hanging fruit” to improve service levels. All types of government organizations benefit from improvements in collaboration when determining how to best deliver customer service.
Heightened Levels of Collaboration Fueled by Tools and Technology
New digital tools and technologies; increased demand for productivity and efficiency improvements from government organizations; and a new generation of individuals entering the workforce have converged to enable new levels of collaboration in government. Federal government agencies are now driving collaboration both internally with other agencies and externally with citizens through new tools, policies and processes.
Collaboration for local government employees can involve working between local, state and federal organizations to implement programs and drive critical priorities like public safety and public health. While most individuals at the state or local level feel that collaboration is being addressed by their organizations already, there is still room for improvement in utilizing new technologies like social media and other digital channels.
Inter-agency collaboration is expanding to include internal communications, working behind-the-scenes with other agencies and combined efforts on communication with the public. External collaboration is now taking place on social media channels, interactive communities and public forums. To take advantage of many of these new technologies, government organizations need to identify and implement new technologies while establishing policies and processes to manage communication and interactions with the public. These efforts will ultimately enhance and enable broad collaboration with stakeholders in the digital age and help increase customer satisfaction.
The good news for government organizations at every level is that information about citizen concerns and industry trends is more available than ever. The most recent news on public opinion and trends affecting government work reveal that these issues are all tightly related. Implementing mobile solutions for government; focusing technology and social media implementations around customer service; and improving internal, inter-agency, and public collaboration are all part of the solution for government organizations working on initiatives to better serve the public.
To view the complete list of survey categories and rankings and to learn more how the public sector can act on the top trends in government, download GovDelivery’s white papers below:
Top 2013 Trends for Federal Agencies
2013 Trends for State and Local Government