Episode 4 was all about our communities, the constituent experience in the public sector, and how digital technologies enable all teams to connect in safe, scalable, and personal ways.
The special guests this week include Mary Hodge, Deputy Chief of Staff at the Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti in the City of Los Angeles. We talk about the Angeleno Card which is helping residents of LA most in need during the pandemic.
We were also joined by Bill Clark from TimeTrade, creators of appointment scheduling technology that underpins much of the modern experience economy and was a big part of this program in the City of LA.
Watch below and read on for a few takeaways.
In early November, the Center for Digital Government announced these five cities as the first place winners of the 2020 Digital Cities Survey. Congratulations to:
This annual report recognizes cities using technology to better serve citizens—including new challenges brought about by the pandemic. These five cities were at the top of their respective population groups, and they all use technology to enhance citizen interactions with government.
The survey also found that the top three initiatives for city officials in 2021 will be:
One city that’s embracing this tech-first perspective is New Mexico’s most populous city. The city of Albuquerque—voted the second most digital city (with 500k or more in population) in the U.S. after the City of LA in 2017—is focused on the citizen experience.
I highly recommend this post by Daniel Foppen on the Oracle CX blog which explores the ways this city takes tremendous pride in ensuring the best possible experience for its constituents.
Recent investments include:
For non-emergency situations, residents can call 311 and reach a contact center deeply integrated with various city departments.
They’re also one of the early adopters of Amazon Alexa integration to help make service interactions with the city easier. Residents can use it to report issues, like picking up an old sofa or other large items, missed trash pickups, and graffiti removal.
As noted in the blog, some constituents of Albuquerque really benefited from this mode of interaction, such as the visually impaired or older generations for which chatting with Alexa is easier than navigating a website or smartphone.
What I really love about this experience, however, is why it’s happening.
According to the article, “Brian Osterloh, Associate CIO at the city, says when he collects taxes from the people of Albuquerque, he wants to deliver back a service that’s worthy of the hard work citizens put in to earn that money.”
Whether you’re in Albuquerque, New Mexico or Staunton, Virginia, the pandemic means we’re all engaging with government services, schooling, and our professional lives digitally.
But, digital experiences require digital access.
A troubling “digital gap” exists. Pew Research Center reported that in 2019 about three-quarters of American adults had a home broadband connection, but broadband adoption varies across demographic groups.
“Racial minorities, older adults, rural residents, and those with lower levels of education and income are less likely to have broadband service at home.”
For example, those making over $75k annually are far more likely to be home broadband users than other income brackets. According to a Pew Research Center survey, four-in-ten adults with household incomes below $30k a year don’t have home broadband services and 46% do not have a traditional computer.
In contrast, each of these technologies is nearly ubiquitous among adults in households earning $100,000 or more a year. Read more at Pew Research Center.
The quote of the week came from Tarrod Robinson, a barbershop owner in Staunton, Virginia.
“The internet is so important today. What would we do without it?”
Tarrod installed a Wi-Fi hotspot in his tiny barbershop (there’s only one chair) so that students can do their homework, whether or not they’re waiting for a haircut.
“I want to make sure that these kids get an opportunity to see the outside world through the internet,” said Tarrod. “I didn’t have that chance and so it’s important that they can do so at my shop, especially the kids that don’t have internet at home.”
This story comes from the nonprofit Brookings Institute, which reports that an estimated 55 million people lack access to a broadband connection in the United States. They say:
“As Tarrod surfaced the economic and digital disparities that exist among certain populations in Staunton, his story amplifies the reasons why America needs to once and for all close the broadband divide. People without digital access are not only limited in their participation in the digital economy but also unable to complete important and often required tasks, such as homework and business transactions.”
And this is just here in the U.S. Across the globe, just 51% of the world population is equipped with basic digital skills.
I know this is a show about digital transformation, but bridging the digital divide should be a priority for all of us who are privileged enough to have access ourselves. This is about equality and digital accessibility.
Appointments may not feel like a new trend. But, due to the Coronavirus, we’re entering a new age of appointments.
Check out this article in the Economist. In 2020, more than ever, clothing retailers, supermarkets, bars, and gyms introduced appointments and virtual queue-management technology to handle capacity constraints.
For example, customers can book visits in advance via an app before shopping at Brown Thomas, a department store in Dublin whose in-store capacity has been reduced by one-third to maintain social distancing.
Restaurants are enabling virtual queuing technology letting customers pre-order meals while they wait, streamlining the at-table experience.
While these are made necessary by social distancing requirements, many organizations are “looking at appointments as a longer-term opportunity to improve or transform their offering.”
The Economist notes three competitive advantages to this strategy:
Watch the video above for my full conversation with Mary Hodge of the City of LA Mayor’s Office and Bill Clark, CEO of Timetrade.
1. COVID-19 brought economic and public health implications to LA.
For residents of LA who were struck by pandemic-related closures, the impact was dire. Businesses closed, people lost jobs suddenly, and matters of food, rent, housing, and car payments were uncertain.
2. The city came up with a rapid relief program — the Angeleno Card.
With this program, Angelenos who live below the federal poverty line or lost 50% of their income due to the Coronavirus pandemic qualify for an Angeleno Card (debit card).
“Government gets a bad rap. We all have great ideas but trying to implement them, sign contracts, and get going sometimes can take months. So, we came up with the idea of the Angeleno Card… the card would give you direct assistance that you could use to pay your rent, go to the grocery store, and do what you needed with it.”
Hodge describes the choice to give qualified residents control over where to spend relief funds:
“We recognized that so many people had lost their jobs. So many people needed access to basically direct cash assistance so they could decide how to spend it. Do I need it to go to food? Do I need to use it on my rent? Do I need to use it for any combination of things? We wanted them to be able to make that choice.”
3. The logistics of this program were supported by modern CX technology.
With hundreds of thousands of applicants needing to be qualified and scheduled for an appointment at over 20 locations by 20+ nonprofit partners, the Angeleno Card program relied on technology partners including Oracle CX Service, Oracle Intelligent Advisor, and TimeTrade to manage such a complex process at scale.
$37 million was distributed, 50k appointments were scheduled, and over 100k residents in need were supported with direct relief. The system was so easy to use that volunteer caseworkers could be trained in just 30 minutes.
4. Appointment setting is key — but deceptively complex.
Bill Clark of TimeTrade explained the difficulty of this process:
“What you’re doing is a combination of trying to make it very, very easy for the end user to get what they want in this case, an appointment to get one of these cards, but you have to balance the 22 locations, the availability of every possible time slot, and the choice of the individual of when they’re available.
And you have to be constantly balancing the availability of appointments with when people want them and what location. So that’s where the technology comes in. Some of the most sophisticated things are the things that look easy because that’s the way they work really well for the end user. But behind the scenes, it’s very, very sophisticated.”
As the world deals with COVID-19 testing and the upcoming vaccination process, logistics and distribution like this will be core to their success.
5. Lessons learned for public sector leaders
Hodge shared takeaways for other public sector leaders:
“[City leaders may think] it‘s a waste of time to build all of this, but actually people are a lot more willing to go online to do a lot of the services that we generally serve to them. We just need to provide easy ways for them to interact with us that way. I’m really excited about what the Angeleno Card has done for our whole team. It’s made us think differently about a lot of the programs we’re offering.”
But, not every citizen is digitally connected equally.
“It‘s something we easily forget when we‘re building programs,” said Hodge. “What are we going to do about the folks who don‘t have internet, or whose only access is through their cell phone? That‘s always a really important thing for us to think through.”
6. All industries are re-thinking “normal”
Clark revealed similar shifts for all industries:
“I think that the pandemic forced people to embrace change faster than they might otherwise have had to. This was a case of where you had to do business in a different way. So whether you were a city with a card like this, or [a bank.] Some banks were essential services, so you couldn’t just shut down. You couldn’t stop giving loans, you couldn’t stop giving mortgages and so forth, but people couldn’t come into branches initially. So the question was immediately thrown to banks: ‘How do you continue to do business and serve your customers, but in a completely different way?‘ It meant setting up appointments to get people connected to the right people at exactly the right time.
…And we’re seeing that in other industries like retail, healthcare, and financial services. What we’re seeing now some months later is that a number of businesses have learned a lot about customer experience and customer engagement and are now incorporating that into their future plans, post pandemic. In some ways, there are some really valuable lessons that have been learned here. And I think those are going to transform businesses.”
This forward-thinking program is being celebrated as an example for cities around the country to follow, and I’m proud to have the opportunity to shine a spotlight on Mary Hodge and her team at the City of LA, Bill Clark and the team at TimeTrade, and my partners at Oracle CX for enabling such a critical program.
This transcript may be edited for readability.
This content was originally published at SmarterCX by Oracle. It has been adapted for the Customer Experience Blog.
Katie Martell is the host of Experience TV, a show about the economic revolution we’re living through, the Experience Economy. She is known as an “unapologetic marketing truth-teller,” a LinkedIn Top Voice in Marketing, and "one of the most interesting people in B2B marketing.” Her forthcoming documentary and book, "Woke-Washed," examines the collision of social movements and marketing, and she is the author of "Trust Me, B2B," a short book about building long-term trust. Follow her on Twitter @KatieMartell and subscribe to The World’s Best Newsletter at Katie-Martell.com.