Citizens Expect Digital Engagement
Government agencies must connect with constituents on their preferred channels
We are living in a digital age where practically everyone uses their smart devices (phone, tablet, watch, etc.) to pay bills and connect with others, as well as perform a host of other activities. So, doesn’t it make sense for government agencies to use this to their advantage? Well…yes. Government agencies must embrace digital engagement as a way to better serve their constituents.
Missing your opportunity
There’s really no other way to say it. People have become addicted to their smart devices. Want proof? Well, in America, people check their smartphones 344 times per day or about once every 4 minutes. Now imagine how much bigger that number will be when you factor in that more than 2 billion people around the world own a cell phone. This continual interaction with our smart devices has resulted in:
- 98 percent of all text messages being read. Of those, 90 percent are read within 3 minutes.
- 91 percent of all U.S. citizens having their mobile devices within reach 24/7.
- 67 percent of consumers preferring to make one-time bill payments via websites or mobile apps.
Many businesses are already taking advantage of this current obsession with smart devices. According to one study, 70 percent of businesses said they use texting to reach consumers and employees.
Government agencies aren’t traditionally known as early adopters, preferring to see how their private sector brethren do when it comes to incorporating new technologies. With digital engagement, the evidence is clear. Businesses around the world have successfully incorporated text messages and emails as part of their engagement strategies. Now it is time for government agencies to do the same.
Just send a text
Government agencies can start their digital engagement with text messaging. This is the least expensive – and most effective – way to engage with your constituents. That’s because today’s digital citizen is very comfortable with the use of text messaging. So much so that 64 percent of customers prefer texting over voice for customer service. And organizations that have incorporated text messaging as part of their engagement strategy have seen a 25-percent increase in customer satisfaction.
Of course, government agencies need to familiarize themselves with the rules around text messaging, specifically the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Passed in 1991, these guidelines apply to any person who places a call or text message to a mobile phone using an Automatic Telephone Dialing System (ATDS).
In April 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court adopted a narrow definition of ATDS, such that in order to be considered an auto dialer, the device must have the capacity to generate numbers randomly or sequentially and to dial such numbers.
When using an ATDS, a strict reading of the TCPA requires the calling or texting party to obtain a consumer’s prior express consent before contacting a consumer on their mobile phone. However, prior express consent is not required when using a contact management system that does not generate numbers randomly or sequentially, or if the system can only call or text from a supplied list (such as the system used by Finvi). In all cases, an opt-in or opt-out message must be included in the body of the text.
Governmental bodies can also look to the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) for information about texting requirements. The CTIA is an organization that represents the U.S. wireless communications industry and companies throughout the mobile ecosystem. The CITA controls short-code programs (character and content restrictions) and publishes best practices for long-code programs.
Couldn’t this have been an email?
Email is another fairly inexpensive, but effective way to reach your constituents. Despite a general feeling by some that email is passé or out of favor among citizens, statistics prove otherwise:
- 96 percent of people check their email daily.
- 58 percent of people check their email first thing in the morning.
- 23 percent of all emails are read within the first hour of receiving them.
Email is considered “written communications” and has some rules that you’ll need to become familiar with. In short, all requirements under federal and state laws that you must adhere to in your constituent letter correspondence sent via USPS must also be included in your constituent email communications.
Government agencies must also follow all requirements when using email for legal documents. Email communications used to provide constituents with legally required disclosures in writing must comply with the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Act (ESIGN) requirements.
And, since most citizens have a personal email address and a work email address, agencies should have policies, procedures, and controls to avoid sending email communications to constituents’ work email addresses without their express consent to avoid potential third-party disclosure claims or invasion of privacy claims.
Ready or not
The digital age is upon us, and global citizens have easily adapted. It seems as if everyone from little kids to the elderly has some sort of smart device in their hands or somewhere close by. Companies around the world are using this to their advantage, offering a host of services online or via an app to keep customers loyal and satisfied. That’s just a normal part of the world today.
In today’s digital world, citizens expect government agencies to communicate with them via text or email. It’s time for government agencies to do just that.
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