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Citizen Engagement Blog

Customer Service Challenges with an Aging Government Workforce


Population aging has been called the “silver tsunami,” as cited in the Pew Internet Project’s 2001 “Wired Seniors” report, which was a catalyst early warning sign of things to come. Now, it appears the wave of Baby Boomer retirements from the government is about to hit.

While this retirement juggernaut was originally supposed to crest in 2011, many public sector employees delayed their exit due to the economic effects of the recession. Currently, 2017 is the target year. Are you ready?

After the deluge

aging workersOlder, experienced workers are expected to leave their government posts in large numbers. For example, retirement is imminent for more than a third of career federal employees who are projected to be eligible to collect their end-of-career benefits by September 2017, according to the Government Accounting Office. And it's not only federal workers, aging state and local government employees are ranking high too.

If this occurs, what are the implications for customer service functions such as contact centers?

On the downside:

  • Retirement will leave fewer and less-knowledgeable people to assist constituents.
  • Replacement workers typically will be younger and possess different skills, experience and expectations regarding how to deliver service for constituents.
  • Replacement may not happen due to budget constraints, leaving gaps in important skills and workloads unmanageable.

On the upside:

  • Younger workers tend to be tech-savvy and willing to adopt new tools that can streamline customer service.
  • Retirements can serve as a catalyst, ushering in improved automation technologies to augment or replace manual processes and labor-intensive interactions.

Easing the transition

younger workforceHere’s a strategy that government contact centers and other constituent-facing agency functions can adopt to ease the stresses of worker retirement. By implementing adaptive interactive voice response (IVR), workforce optimization (WFO) solutions and additional digital tools, they can compensate for the loss of older workers, appeal to the technology preferences of younger replacements and, as an extra bonus, help to streamline traditional processes and keep costs down.

The key is promoting self-service options (voice self-service, mobile apps, websites) for constituents to lighten the burden on contact center agents, case workers and other customer service staff. When constituents choose self-service – and many prefer it for convenience and control – there is less demand to speak to or chat with a government worker. In turn, less reliance on agents can save money, minimize potential issues that arise when inexperienced, younger workers interact with the public, and automate manual tasks such as notifications, reminders, faxing or.

Integrating the customer journey

For government agencies, a phone call is still the primary customer service channel. But when callers reach a contact center agent, it’s the second highest cost way to serve citizens behind assisting them in person. Providing an easier way for citizens to solve their issues conveniently in a low-cost manner in the phone channel will be even more critical in coming days to stay ahead of the aging workforce juggernaut. Technology and analytics integration can increase these benefits even more for customer experience and for government worker productivity.

By integrating the front gate (IVR automated self-service) customer interactions  with the agent-facing (WFO live agent citizen support and contact center) processes, government agencies can improve CX and productivity with the analytics and actions taken from both ends of the customer journey.

  • IVR analytics from millions of interaction points helps clarify what citizens are typically looking for, when they are most active (enrollment, deposit days and life challenges, for instance) and via what channel.
  • WFO systems provide data to better organize worker schedules, assign tasks and understand caller needs.
  • Together, they better identify and solve citizen, staff, analytics, and prioritization improvement challenges.

Benefits to aging workforce needs

  • Enable citizens to be more self-reliant, getting faster answers.
  • Ease workload burden on agency staff, like less call transfers in the queue.
  • Personalize CX, so citizens are happier when they self-serve or speak to an agent.
  • Refresh outdated, cumbersome processes that overload staff and impact customer service.
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Topics: Government customer service IVR Customer Experience Contact Center Insights Process Improvement