OTTAWA – The first step in transforming e-government services should be to recognize that citizens who use the various channels are clients, experts told the Integrating Government Service Channels conference Tuesday.

Keynote speakers at the two-day event, which was presented by the Institute for Citizen-Centred Service, indicated that while the Internet is now the focal channel of delivering services, it is critical that there is a smooth transition other channels, such as phone and mail. Recognizing the client base, and disseminating what the client needs in terms of service capabilities, has led to a dramatic change in philosophy for many information service providers, they said.

Art Daniels, Assistant Deputy Minister, Quality Service, OPS Excellence and Innovation Office, Ontario, quoted research that said although 60 per cent of Canadian households have Internet access, walk-in services still have the highest satisfaction rate at 74 per cent. Internet satisfaction comes in third at 57 per cent.

Daniels said he believes that effective integration of these channels is an important part of customer relationship management. Citizens, he said, will judge services by their satisfaction and not the policy put in place to support it.

“”For 50 years we told Canadians who we are but not what we did,”” Daniels said. “”We need to provide research, as well as learning events, and we need to produce services in product terms in order to better understand channel management.””

Iain McKellar, director, Divisional Management, Statistics Canada, also agreed that while the Internet is the future, people still want choice.

“”We are going to continue to provide services on all channels because that is what society seems to want and we will not be trying to change society,”” he said.

At Statistics Canada, the benefit of adapting to various service channels is that they can provide the widest possible access to data and information for clients. In doing so, the Statistics Canada Web site, established in 1996, is becoming integrated with the other service channels, although the process is proving slow, McKellar said, partly due to integration issues. Secure firewalls on the Web site, for example, do not allow for integration with phone service channels.

“”Testing is good!”” has become the Statistics Canada mantra, McKellar maintained, adding that while StatsCan is doing everything in its power, the amount of resources available is a hindrance.

“”The level of service we can afford to give is the level of service we will give,”” he said. “”We don’t have the resources to do everything.””

At the Bank of Montreal (BMO), full-scale integration of various service channels began two years ago and is still evolving. Client expectation now includes 24-hour a day service and the ability to use a variety of channels.

Richard Rudderham, senior vice-president, Distribution Services, Bank of Montreal, explains that the BMO had to consolidate and centralize their service channels and implement a common technology to avoid duplication of services.

“”Everyone needs to buy-in to an integrated approach to channel management,”” Rudderham said. “”Get people (staff) and technology right and everything else will follow.””

Integrating Government Service Channels continues on Wednesday.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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