The government, in its relationship with its citizens, has the double mandate of being as efficient as possible in an environment where the resources are rare, while also offering services that are of better quality and constantly accessible.
On the one hand, we are thankful that our governments do not think as businesses do but rather uphold a spirit of equal services for all and universal accessibility. On the other hand, we regret that our governments do not take think more like companies as they all too often forget the benefits that marketing can offer when it comes to inciting the parties most concerned – the citizens – to adopt online services.
In the fall of 2004, I presented a speech to the Conseil du trésor du Québec on marketing governmental services online and I got the impression that this was the first time any of the civil servants in the audience had heard of this option. In all their years of working for the government, they were never required to consider the possibility of online marketing and communication. In light of this, how can we ever hope that citizens and companies will adopt the online services implemented by the governments?
In response to this situation, here are a few resolutions that the government should take in 2005 to optimize the adoption of online services available to citizens:
1- Prioritize online services with high potential
Hundreds of projects can be implemented in the framework of online government but the challenge lies in choosing those most likely to generate results. We recommend that the various governments undertake the task of identifying which online services offer the highest economic and social returns on their investment. The preferences of online Canadians should be taken as a foundation and the project should be supported by a marketing and communications strategy.
To take an example, Adviso Consulting examined IT application models in the health sector in 2004 and discovered that the government would be better off publishing and facilitating citizens’ access to health information (easier to find and use). Would this be an extra expense? Not at all – in fact, it would actually be a strategic investment that, according to a study by Stanford University , would make it possible to save 3% on doctor visits. Moreover, 66% of online Canadians have previously visited health information sites, making it the most popular topic among Canadian Internet users.
Once the government offers services that truly interest Internet users and that greatly reduce expenses in the real world, it will become far more natural to adopt more new online services.
2- Establish a centralized online services marketing policy
Over the past months we have witnessed the first manifestation of a single governmental portal in Quebec , which centralizes under a single roof many online governmental services. This is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, but we must go even further. Ideally, it would be beneficial to have a centralized marketing policy containing elements of marketing plans and strategies that promote a certain consistency in the quality of governmental work, as well as a simplified and efficient management of ministerial marketing programs.
Furthermore, if a solution such as this were accompanied by a quality control policy, it would facilitate and encourage innovation among the ministries while also conserving high governmental standards in terms of the accessibility, user-friendliness and efficiency of ministerial efforts.
3- Building a relationship with citizens and companies
If the government wants to flout the advantages of Internet technologies to convince its “customers” to adopt online services, it will need to establish much more than communication and promotion plans for online services and their benefits. This, plus the fact that traditional marketing initiatives are costly, leads us to believe that a relationship marketing approach would be much more effective. This approach would need to be built on three underlying aspects:
The right person
Choosing the customers who are most likely to respond to an offer is the first step in relationship marketing. Hence the title of this section, “Building a ‘relationship’ with citizens and companies.”
The right channel
The second step in any relationship marketing strategy is to respect the choice of citizens and companies in terms of their preferred channel for interacting with the government.
The right moment
Currently, Internet users are bombarded with e-mail messages, which is why it is important, whenever possible, to contact them only when a specific subject is likely to affect them. This maximizes the results of each campaign. The fundamental rule of relationship marketing is clear: the more a message is personalized, the more receptive a customer will be.
This type of relationship marketing strategy will maximize the government’s efforts to incite citizens to adopt online services, while also making it possible to obtain a high level of satisfaction from the government’s “clientele” and generating significant savings on service delivery.
Other resolutions to keep in 2005 for prosperous e-business ventures in Canada: