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Mobile Blog

December 3, 2012

Users’ expectation for mobilized content. It’s all about customer service.

Just like you, I use my smartphone to constantly keep connected and informed through email, texting, social media, and internet access. But when I recently visited a number of cabinet level agency websites, none detected my device or presented their information in a mobile format. That's not to say that government mobile enabled websites don't exist, it’s just that many of the public facing agencies that would most benefit from these aren't there yet or haven’t taken the first step. The website is a nice mobilized starting point, but try following the links and I bet you will quickly abandon the experience out of frustration because of non-mobilized agency content. 

Without access to government-wide statistics on mobile web access, my guess is that the percentage of access that comes from smartphones continues to increase at a rapid rate. Work that we’ve done at the agency level certainly reflects this trend. We recently took advantage of some of the tools available on our own corporate web platform to mobilize our BruckEdwards content. The content is aligned with our standard site, and it’s easy to navigate using a WebKit browser. 

For government agencies looking to do more with less, mobile is a huge missed opportunity—especially for user groups for whom a smartphone may now be a citizen’s exclusive means of accessing the Internet. My take is that so many agencies are focusing on the app side of things, they’re missing out on the significant usability benefits of mobile web and HTML5.

In April of 2011, President Obama issued Executive order 13571, “Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service.” This order acknowledges the innovations on the consumer side, and presses government agencies to take better advantage of technologies such as mobile in their efforts to allow more self-service options and improve customer service. Thinking more about how complete the move to mobilized content is everywhere BUT government, I came up with the following ideas about how to fully implement the president's customer service directive.

  1. The mobile first mentality—This just seems to be as important as the OMB “Cloud First” initiative. In fact, it seems a clear approach to improving customer service and unlocking untapped process improvement.
  2. Adopt responsive web design—This would seems to be a natural extension of Section 508 standards, applied to users of mobile devices. This would translate to government-wide guidelines for cross-mobile platform HTML5 site design.
  3. Deliver interactive online apps tailored to mobile web capability—For citizen-facing benefits agencies, providing a means for citizens to securely enter information while seated in the waiting room could improve data quality, speed customer service, and of course reduce costs.
  4. Leverage apps and mobile web that drive electronic services—Give users the ability to see the waiting time at the local field office. This would potentially better motivate citizens to conduct their agency business online.
  5. Authoritative agency apps—In the app realm, many agencies are struggling to differentiate their authoritative mobile apps from the ever growing slew of impersonating apps looking to charge citizens for otherwise free information or services. We need a way to help the citizens find these authoritative agency apps on the different markets and avoid the ones looking to prey on people.

This is of course just a start but improving the citizen’s mobile experience is an important step toward an overall improvement in customer service.