by Larry Mead, Kate Kompelien and Kurt Schroeder
Avtex Helps Public Sector Agencies Manage High Volume Citizen Interactions
Exploring the Challenges of Correspondence Management
Consumers today expect a high level of service from the companies they do business with. Public sector agencies are no exception – in fact, many citizens expect a higher level of service and increased efficiency from the municipal, state and federal government agencies their taxes help to fund.
For many government agencies, meeting citizen expectations is a challenge, especially when it comes to managing the sheer volume of incoming correspondence from constituents, businesses and other agencies. The average government agency fields hundreds of requests each day, and many of those requests must be handled by multiple agents or departments.
Correspondence management is about managing relationships and interactions between citizens and government agencies.
Why is correspondence management such a challenge for government agencies?
For years, private businesses have managed high volume correspondence using focused solutions. Why can’t government agencies do the same? Unfortunately, government agencies face unique challenges in managing correspondence, including:
- Tangential requests: In many cases a single request may prompt off multiple requests throughout an organization. The initial request goes across multiple approval chains and the challenge for agencies is that they may live in a single email system to manage that activity. Consider this hypothetical scenario:
- A law enforcement agency submits a grant request for funding to establish a new K9 unit. That request is submitted through an online user portal, then routed to the appropriate initial reviewer. In this case, the reviewer must gather additional information on available grants and their qualification criteria. After identifying a potential grant program, the reviewer routes the request to the grant’s administration team. That team fields the request, reviews it and determines that more information is needed to appropriately consider the application. The request is routed back to the original reviewer, who routes it back to the law enforcement agency, who adds information and sends it back through the online portal to start the process all over again. The process continues.
- Departmental disconnect: Many government agencies are highly compartmentalized, with departments geographically and technologically separated. Depending on the type of correspondence, approval or resolution may require the input of multiple departments and multiple individuals within those departments. With a lack of real-time collaboration, each time a correspondence is routed from one department to another, or from one individual to another, the possibility of data loss and information degradation increases.
- Manual Review and Approval: Once the final response has been drafted, government agencies will either pass around hard copies or email electronic copies for approvals and signatures. This manual process can delay timely delivery, especially if a key approver is out of office, leaving the document in an inbox until the approver returns. If the correspondence is not approved, it is manually re-routed back to the authors for re-work and the slow, inefficient process repeats.
- Security and compliance regulations: Government agencies are held to strict security standards. Agencies need correspondence management systems that are bulid on secure platforms the meet federal regulations like the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), which requires agencies to use low-risk and low-impact cloud solutions. While such regulations are important, they limit the viable correspondence management solutions agencies have to choose from.
- Records Retention: Government agencies are held to a stricter standard on what must be archived and kept for a defined period of time as well as remaining able to be FOIA’ed or recalled at a later date for reference or discovery.
- Funding: Despite common belief, government agencies are not offered an infinite budget. Identifying a correspondence management solution that lands within the goldilocks zone -- the convergence of an agency’s budget, security requirements and effective feature set, is challenging.
Despite the challenges, it’s important that government provides information, answers questions and addresses requests in an efficient manner. This is a central part of public service.
Fortunately, there are viable solutions to the correspondence management challenge. In this blog series, I’ll offer insight on a number of topics to help you understand available solutions and strategies for effective correspondence management, including:
- Strategies for identifying your agency’s unique CMS needs
- Suggestions for selecting a CRM and CMS solution
- Successful CMS implementations
- The importance of Citizen Experience
In the meantime, here's more insight into the challenges associated with correspondence management and they ways Avtex solves them: