Squeeze the middle

19 September, 2013 by Joel Bellman

Deloitte’s recent research with YouGov found that 61% of citizens want to engage with Government exclusively or mostly online, and at the other end of the scale, 10% mostly rule out using digital channels. This leaves 29% of citizens who are open to engaging with Government digitally, but need a bit of a nudge.
Squeeze the middle

The 61% who want digital Government are those that don’t need much persuading.  As long as the digital service is useful and usable, they are likely to adopt it (and in many cases seek it out). The 10% that mostly rule out using digital channels warrant a different kind of attention:  assisted digital support and offline alternatives for those who simply cannot use digital services

Savvy public bodies focus on the middle 29% - that slice of the population who can be persuaded or nudged towards digital services, or can reject them if they aren’t good enough. This short blog post recommends some of the strategies that are employed to achieve this.


Strategies for digital service design

Our research found that over two thirds of the public think it is important for digital services to be simple, informative and to save them both time and money. All too often services are designed in conference rooms without user involvement, resulting in digital services that can fail to deliver against user expectations.

During the design of digital services, process public bodies can avoid failing to deliver by:

  1. Breaking down the solution into small components that each deliver value. This reduces risk by allowing parts of the solution to be tested with users quickly, rather than waiting for the whole solution to be completed. For many solutions, a good way of achieving this is to adopt Agile delivery methods.
  2. Making user research part of the design process rather than a nice-to-have. At the very least, this means identifying representative users to act as a sounding board for ideas. Complex projects, however, gain value from fully fledged user research and feedback incorporated into the way that the digital service is designed, built and tested. User research helps refine everything from the flow of processes to the nuances of language, making services are intuitive to customers.
  3. Designing services around the customer rather than the process. Customers usually care about their whole need being met, rather than just one part of a process being done well. This is particularly challenging when many organisations are involved in service delivery (such as in health and social care, or in supporting vulnerable families).  Well-designed digital processes make the siloes of government irrelevant to the customer.

Strategies for digital service delivery

Our research also found that the majority of citizens would be more likely to adopt digital services by the provision of additional features. Put another way, it is simply not enough to build a brilliant digital service: many users (especially the squeezable middle 29% of them) need some nudging over the line. Savvy public bodies complement their digital services with the following:

  1. Assurances about their trustworthiness and integrity. One third of the public believe that their data would be misused if shared with Government, so effort spent building confidence and comfort amongst potential users will pay back in the form of increased digital uptake.
  2. Support structures for customers who want to know they can ask for help, if they need it. This can include online help, knowledgeable contact centre staff available by phone, social media or web chat, and in some cases local support networks for those who need them.
  3. Appropriate awareness and marketing activity.  Government does not need to market its services like the private sector. Nonetheless efforts to raise awareness of digital services can have rapid and sizeable payback, especially if they are well-targeted to reach customers who would otherwise use offline channels.

The case for investment

The case for investing in these digital strategies is clear. Most digital programmes are justified, at least in part, by efficiency savings.  These savings are realised when customers are empowered to serve themselves, reducing the demand on expensive channels like contact centres and Government offices. The savings from the 61% who would choose digital anyway are “banked” (particularly for the 18% who prefer exclusively online channels). Digital business cases, therefore, are disproportionately sensitive to whether the 29% sitting on the fence actually shift channels.

Put another way, investment in reducing barriers to adoption is about mitigating business case risk. It is like a heat seeking missile which targets the risk that services are made digital but costs stubbornly refuse to come down. In times of limited budget, when “more for less” is genuinely achievable with the right approaches, it is money well spent.