Dec 01 2023
Digital Workspace

Improve Contact Center Efficiency with Cloud and Digital-First Services

As agencies improve digital engagement with citizens, technologies must support their efforts at scale.

Despite digital-first customer service taking off in the private sector, citizens still strongly prefer phone calls and in-person visits for engaging with government agencies.

It could be that they enjoy interactions with dedicated and knowledgeable staff members. It could also be that the presence of legacy technology infrastructure makes digital interactions difficult.

To that end, the Biden administration’s 2024 budget proposal included $500 million in funding to help agencies implement updated technology, pilot new online tools and increase capacity, thereby improving customer experience (CX). This would be an important step forward for agencies that are used to being stretched thin.

“Government agencies need to operate at scale. Manual, legacy processes are an inhibitor to being able to do that, and they also invite human error,” says Javed Khan, senior vice president and general manager at Cisco Collaboration. “It can be quite difficult to deliver elevated experiences when using legacy systems.”

As agencies modernize with digital-first services, they must ensure that the systems they implement fulfill their technology and workflow needs while also meeting citizens’ privacy and security expectations. Increasingly, this means moving to the cloud.

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Digital Engagement with Agencies Hasn’t Caught On Yet

It’s no secret that citizens engage with brands digitally. They shop and pay bills online, check bank balances in mobile apps and talk to chatbots if they have questions. Even education and healthcare, industries traditionally slow to adopt digital services, have seen an uptick in digital engagement since the pandemic.

Government services remain an exception to this rule. Only 23 percent of citizens often or always interact with agencies through digital channels, according to a recent Deloitte report.

Though digital engagement is up 36 percent since the start of the pandemic, Deloitte data shows the increase to be inequitable: Citizens who are younger, live in large cities, have college degrees and have higher incomes are more likely to interact with agencies that way.

Part of the reason may stem from poor experiences with digital services for federal benefits. Deloitte found that fewer than 60 percent of citizens are satisfied with digital services for applying for public housing or employment benefits, engaging with family and children services, or communicating with immigration services.

digital experience table of contents


Better Contact Centers Require Cloud Services

Given these trends, agencies cannot ignore the contact center as a critical first point of engagement with the citizens they serve. The Biden administration’s funding proposal reflects a need for agencies to invest in technologies and processes that improve contact center efficiency, reduce administrative burdens and provide better CX.

“People have the same expectations for government agencies that they’d have for commercial entities,” Khan says. “They expect highly personalized, efficient and increasingly automated interactions that allow them to obtain the services and information they need quickly and easily.”

The first step is for agencies to address the legacy point solutions that they’ve acquired and implemented over the years to solve individual challenges, he adds.

Different systems for handling different inquiries “can often manifest into fractured experiences that cause frustration,” Khan says.

Javed Khan
When someone does want to contact an agency, they must be provided with digital-first options like chat or messaging capabilities.”

Javed Khan Senior Vice President and General Manager, Cisco Collaboration

Legacy systems remain vital to agency work, but they’re also difficult to maintain because their technology is outdated, as are the skills necessary to manage them, says Amy Spruill, managing director of regulated industries at SAP.

Such systems also lend themselves to manual workflows because they were designed as stand-alone, client-server systems that don’t interact. Transferring information requires re-inputting it, often from a handwritten form, and that is costly, time-consuming, prone to error and a security risk.

In these scenarios, making the transition to cloud services can help agencies modernize, Spruill says.

By moving infrastructure management and ownership to a cloud service provider, agencies free staff to focus on service delivery.

This has three primary benefits. First, it enables agencies to shift interactions with citizens to digital channels. Second, it frees workers to use their years of expertise to focus on tasks that require decision-making instead of data entry, Spruill says.


The percentage of calls that can be resolved without human agents when an interactive voice response system is deployed

Source: Five9, Improving Local Government Contact Center Experiences, July 2022

Empathetic Technology Improves the Contact Center Experience

The third benefit is the potential to focus on innovations in citizen engagement such as mobile applications, chatbots or interactive voice response, Spruill says.

“When someone does want to contact an agency, they must be provided with digital-first options like chat or messaging capabilities,” Khan says. “It’s paramount that solutions deliver higher forms of automation with smarter handoffs to humans, if there’s an exception or a problem.”

One example of automation in action comes from a Five9 case study in which an agency implemented an interactive voice response system and integrated it with its customer relationship management system. This deployment allowed the virtual agent to look up a citizen’s information, such as accounts held with the agency, and walk through the options associated with those accounts.

With this type of deployment, up to 87 percent of calls can be resolved without the involvement of human agents, according to Five9. When a contact center representative does need to get involved, context is available for a fast, personalized answer.

While this benefits all citizens, it’s especially helpful for those who may otherwise ask someone to call on their behalf and as a result may have to wait days for a critical answer to a simple question.

DISCOVER: Learn why FedRAMP must scale to keep pace with agencies’ cloud adoption.

Securing Contact Centers in the Cloud

Because agencies face a host of cybersecurity threats, any technology upgrade must secure citizens’ data and their interactions with the government. Legacy systems residing on outdated, unsupported on-premises servers are an easy target for attackers attempting to breach agency firewalls, Khan says.

Software as a Service and Platform as a Service solutions encrypt data at rest, in transit and in use. Access can be further protected through zero-trust security, which requires ongoing authorization and authentication and regular review of audit logs for suspicious activity, Khan says.

Spruill says recent federal developments should help agencies manage a transition to the cloud in the name of improving contact center operations and citizen engagement:

  • The release of digital-first public experience policy guidance provides a robust framework for modernization with common standards for delivering online tools and experiences citizens want.
  • The signing of the FedRAMP Authorization Act standardizes security and risk assessment for cloud technologies. Agencies can evaluate and select technology quickly, building on other agencies’ decision-making processes if applicable.
  • The 2021 CX executive order ties the security of public-facing servers to existing National Institute of Standards and Technology guidelines. Agencies can work with a framework already in place and rest assured that cloud services will meet their needs.

“Agencies need a secure and resilient technology infrastructure to support a digital-first approach, and they must prioritize data security in the digital environment,” Spruill says. “Replacing legacy systems with more secure technology, including the adoption of cloud-based services, will enhance cybersecurity and citizen-centric services.”

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