Marvel superhero Darwin has the power to adapt to any situation. For example, he grows gills when underwater and becomes fireproof when near an open flame. Although a far-fetched comic imagination, Darwin’s adaptability relates to a familiar real-world environment as today’s successful organisations showcase the survive-and-thrive instincts in adaptability.

In this Covid-19 pandemic, the organisations that were able to adapt quickly and continue delivering quality citizen services were the ones that emerged the most successful. This wasn’t down to luck, it was because of their ability to pivot and respond to changing circumstances.

Simplifying the citizen experience journey sounds more daunting than it should, but is in fact achievable in any organisation. Malcolm Koh, the Director of CX Practice, Global Customer Engagement at Zendesk shares how automation, streamlining communication and agile processes can help.

1. Automate, test, repeat

Citizen engagement channels are often not designed with support staff in mind, leading to inefficiency, frustration and high turnover. According to Zendesk’s Customer Experience Trends Report 2021, 85 per cent of teams reported having to make changes to their support over the past year, as customers adopted new channels to interact with businesses.

This trend can be extended to the public sector. Even though automation is now prevalent everywhere, its success depends on how much organisations invest in the technology and data to realise its full potential. It isn’t something that should be blindly applied to all processes and channels.

Public agencies need to evaluate their citizen touchpoints and apply automation where it makes most sense. For instance, the most fundamental application is in managing sudden spikes in ticket volumes created by the pandemic lockdowns or other situations. Bots are also useful for intercepting repetitive questions, so public officials can focus on more complex issues that require human judgement.

A company that reaped the value of automation is Carousell, one of Asia’s largest and fastest growing marketplaces. It experienced explosive growth due to its seamless shopping and selling experience for its community.

Carousell was able to create custom forms to collect information that agents need, automatically tag tickets and route them to the right agents. This allowed them to spend more time helping customers and less time manually tracking tickets and cleaning up tagging errors.

2. Keep it simple 

Many organisations are familiar with the mantra “the customer is always right”. But how often do organisations spend time to really listen to the needs of the people they serve?

To stay connected with citizens across channels, organisations need to first boost collaboration and efficiency from within.

A common pain point that agents face is a lack of visibility to relevant citizen data. This limits their ability to understand the customer and provide a personalised interaction.

Self-service resources, like help centers, can intercept would-be tickets by directing citizens to answers online without having to wait for a live agent.

StashAway, a digital wealth management platform based out of Singapore, was looking to improve both its customer engagement and agent efficiency. It saw an opportunity early on in the financial services sector to use WhatsApp – a social messaging app locals were already familiar with – as a key communication channel. It was the first firm to integrate Zendesk with Whatsapp.

Shortly after its adoption, StashAway witnessed a jump in customers using WhatsApp, as it offered greater accessibility and faster response times. Each agent was able to handle 80 per cent more volume per week with increased efficiency. The end result: stronger trust with their customers.

3. Staying agile

A common challenge for organisations is adapting quickly and improving established work processes, especially in times of crises. A “one size fits all” approach cannot work, but neither should agencies need a complex team of developers or consultants to make changes.

Public agencies will need tech tools that they can easily integrate with existing systems and scale where needed.

One sector that faced significant disruption in the pandemic was travel. Klook, an online travel agency founded in Hong Kong and with a global presence, had to flex its agility muscle in this time of unprecedented change.

Even as ticket volumes soared above 78,000 per month, the team at Klook was able to increase productivity by 35 per cent and reduce ticket handling time by 20 per cent. The team worked with local agencies like the Singapore Tourism Board to grow tourism demand domestically.

Reporting and analytics gave the company crucial data for understanding customer behaviour and identifying changes and trends to maintain an agile business operation.

The ability to react to world events and evolving citizen needs is key to maintaining success in the long term. Agility has always been valuable, but its importance has only increased in the face of the pandemic. Getting automation, conversational experiences and agile processes in place now will provide the flexibility needed to deliver superior experiences for years to come.