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5 ways to build better government with citizen feedback

You probably know it’s important to collect citizen feedback on government services, but have you ever thought about all the ways and places you could do it?

Just as importantly, do you know how to “close the loop” with residents and citizens after they give you feedback? No matter if you call it citizen feedback, resident feedback, user feedback, or something else, there are multiple ways to think about collecting the data and closing the loop with citizens.

First, let’s look at some places and ways to collect feedback from your citizens.

1. Online panels

Online panels, also sometimes referred to as “research panels,” are growing in popularity as a way for local governments around the world to collect resident and citizen feedback about topics that matter to their communities. One big plus to panels: they modernize and digitize the collection of citizen feedback beyond traditional, in-person town hall meetings.

With an online panel, citizens “opt in” to receiving periodic surveys about events, zoning, real estate, local policies, public services, or other important local issues. Government officials use the feedback to help make decisions.

Dublin, Ireland's "Your Dublin, Your Voice" is one example. More than 3,500 locals have signed up to receive surveys from Dublin City Council up to four times a year on a variety of topics like local arts, entertainment, retail, civic engagement, community and public services. Feedback and suggestions cultivated from panel participants help the city officials and councilors prioritize decisions that ripple to citizens.

The City of Provo, Utah also uses online panels. Doing so has opened the city’s feedback channels to a broader range of citizens and residents. In the past, typically only those with strong enough feelings to show up to a city council meeting, send an email, or call had their voices heard. Now, with the city’s online panel, more citizens can engage, city officials have more data, and can better identify the issues that matter most to residents. The City of Provo runs its panel program on the Qualtrics Experience Management Platform™.

2. Website feedback

Collecting website feedback has never been more important. Federal, state, and local governments are putting more information, forms, data, and service updates online than ever before. The whole purpose in doing so is to provide citizens easier access to services while improving operational efficiencies for government.

To get that win-win scenario, agencies have to understand how citizens perceive digital offerings; are they simple to use and navigate? Is the process of engaging efficient? Transparent? What is the outcome for the citizen?

The good news is website feedback mechanisms have come a long way. The National Library of Medicine and are two U.S. federal government agencies that are collecting real-time website user feedback using Qualtrics. NLM uses site intercept to ask if content was helpful. Real-time, dynamic feedback goes to content teams on the agency side. The NLM team then triages issues and uses Qualtrics’ Text iQ to analyze open text remarks.

The end goal is to understand the citizen or user’s digital journey and, in response, make their websites easier to use., on almost every page of their website, gives users the opportunity to say whether or not the content on that page was helpful, why it was or wasn’t, and suggest improvements. By implementing site changes based on this feedback, reduced the average time to enroll for healthcare by 13%.

3. Text message (SMS) feedback

We love what Qualtrics’ Ryan Nelsen wrote about SMS surveys in this post on SMS can be a good option if your government agency has access and permission to contact citizens via mobile text messaging.

4. Kiosk feedback

Kiosk feedback can catch citizens “in the moment” as they’re leaving a government agency field service office, for example. Questions asked on a standalone iPad positioned near the exit can ask for quick feedback on ease of access, helpfulness of staff, and whether or not the citizen accomplished what he or she set out to do when they visited the field office.

Kiosks are a quick method for capturing instant citizen feedback that can be used to intercept a potentially negative individual encounter and turn it around. Pair that feedback in aggregate with operational data, like how long visits take and how engaged employees are in that office, and you have a powerful starting point for improving the journey for every visitor.

5. Mobile apps

Given the growing pervasiveness of mobile devices around the world, it makes sense that governments would offer citizens and residents access to government services and information via a mobile app. It also makes sense that governments would collect feedback from citizens while they’re using the app via a simple, in-app survey, or by asking them to leave a review of the app in the app store.

Bonus! Mission-oriented feedback

Here’s one more way to think about collecting citizen feedback. Agency employees are usually citizens or residents, too. So, if you’re thinking of your own employees as potential sources of citizen feedback, you’re not off-base.

Fraser Health Authority, a public sector organization in British Columbia, uses Qualtrics to gather perceptions from 3,000+ internal staff in order to monitor, evaluate, and track program successes as they relate to advancing energy and environmental sustainability in health care. Employees and volunteers share feedback on the strengths, opportunities, and challenges in Fraser’s sustainability efforts. Other surveys and follow-on analyses measure the effectiveness of environmental projects both before and after. Those results are incorporated into future change initiatives.

Finally, closing the loop

Collecting feedback on its own won’t make you successful. Acting on feedback and then communicating the actions you’ve taken based on that feedback will. That may mean individual responses to citizens via email or a phone call, presenting your action plans on a webinar or in a town hall meeting, sharing a video message from your agency’s leader on social media, or publicizing what you’ve done in the opening pages of an annual performance report. In our next post, we’ll share some more ideas on how your agency can close the loop with citizens.

Reach out to any member of the Qualtrics federal team for advice and insights from our work with 60+ federal agencies and 100+ clients, including our work as the only experience management platform that comes with the security of being FedRAMP authorized.

Want expert help? Request a consultation from our federal team

Stephanie Thum

Stephanie Thum is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) and Chief Advisor for Federal Customer Experience at Qualtrics. In a past life, Stephanie was the head of CX for a federal government agency where she built a CX program that included customer surveys, executive councils, employee engagement, and data governance practices. She was also responsible for coordinating her agency’s public-facing annual performance plan and report, based on OMB Circular A-11. She is formally trained in strategic planning for government organizations and in planning, budgeting, and performance reporting for government organizations.

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