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Spotlight On: Government-Citizen Engagement

Government-Citizen Engagement

The future of government-citizen communication and support is omnichannel.

Fueled by emerging technologies and integrated customer service experiences, citizens expect more from their interactions with government agencies and services when seeking information or support: speed, convenience, relevance, responsiveness, and the ability to communicate through virtually any channel. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the trend toward interacting with people wherever they are, digitally, regardless of circumstances or structural barriers. Agencies able to meet these expectations are more likely to deliver on their missions and improve outcomes for the populations they serve.

Abt works with government agencies to modernize how they interface with citizens, and these trends drive our solutions:

  • Mobile- and digital-first communication: optimized websites and apps that provide accurate information and interactive support
  • Chat bots and artificial intelligence: the ability to ask questions and get quick answers and support to resolve issues in real-time
  • Personalized services and follow-up: people expect results, recommendations, and resources that are relevant to them, and they expect the government to recognize their unique needs through data integration, tracking, or other means of case management
  • Self-service: the ability to schedule services online, file claims, update an account record, and track payments

Government-to-citizen communication requires connecting people to the resources they need , while simultaneously collecting reliable data from live interactions across multiple communication channels that link people to services, answer questions, or share and collect information during emergencies. Agencies need robust contact systems and processes tailored to citizens’ needs in order to connect with them in a continuous, multi-channel, two-way stream of communication and information flow. Abt has developed a solution to meet these complex needs.

We call it VOICE, short for Virtual Omnichannel Integrated Citizen Engagement. VOICE is a multi-channel solution for government to citizen engagement built on emerging technologies, cloud-based systems, and Abt’s 60 years of survey research, policy and subject-matter expertise.

What is VOICE?

VOICE is an interconnected ecosystem of cloud-based technologies and skilled people. It facilitates two-way information sharing and gathering across a range of channels and media, including mobile apps, web, text, video, email, telephone, traditional mail, and even in-person. This combination of human intelligence and advanced technological solutions maximizes operational efficiency while ensuring high-quality information that positions agencies for success. VOICE connects multiple technology platforms, such as those for complex survey research efforts (e.g., Confirmit and REDCap), inbound communication systems (e.g., Sytel), and platforms for mobile apps, web-based portals, sophisticated interactive voice response (IVR), email, and SMS text response.

Our people include highly skilled contact agents, interviewers, supervisors, and quality control staff teamed with our world-recognized scientists and technical experts in surveys, statistics, digital technologies, health, education, child and family welfare, housing, environment, and the like. Because our system and underlying technology are cloud-based, we can hire staff with any required skillset anywhere in the United States.

Through centralized contact center support, VOICE creates a better citizen experience.

Through centralized contact center support, VOICE creates a better citizen experience.

VOICE can be used for inbound and outbound communications, surveys and case management. We provide inbound and outbound help-desk support for thousands of citizens who need assistance or information about government programs and services. We can work with clients to design, develop, implement, and manage robust on-going two-way communications over time, such as working with individuals to collect information and help them navigate issues they may experience in obtaining health care, housing, and other benefits or services.

As part of Abt’s implementation of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Promoting Opportunities Demonstration (POD), we operated a centralized call center/earnings processing center/help desk for disabled benefits recipients. To meet the specific needs of the population, it was essential to provide an accessible online interface that integrated fax, phone, and other modes of communication. Beneficiaries were able to provide their earnings information each month using the mode of communication that was most convenient to them.

We create inclusive systems, accessible to underserved populations.

We create inclusive systems, accessible to underserved populations.

Different demographics prefer or have access to different channels of communication, and governments must meet citizens where they are. Abt developed VOICE specifically to help clients reach transient, low-resource populations.

For New York City, we conducted a mixed-methods evaluation of NYC Well, a free and confidential service for individuals seeking short-term counseling for mental health and/or substance use concerns. Citizens who utilize this service are often low-income and/or Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). As part of the program evaluation, we collected data through inclusive, self-administered web-based surveys by providing alternate modes for survey completion (inbound phone or email) to households without access to, and households not comfortable with web-based technologies. This was supplemented by phone outreach to individuals who were unable to complete the online survey. This study involved collecting an initial survey shortly after using the service and a follow-up survey six months later to find out whether services had changed the participant’s situation. Between the two surveys, there was email and mail outreach requesting contact information updates, which could be provided by completing and mailing back a form, calling a study phone number, or completing an online survey, whichever was easiest for the participant.

VOICE is trusted and reliable for emergency outreach and two-way reporting.

VOICE is trusted and reliable for emergency outreach and two-way reporting.

To effectively communicate with citizens and respond to emergencies, governments need reliable, integrated, interoperable data and communication systems to share timely, accurate, and clear information. VOICE can meet the different, urgent needs of citizens and governments during emergency outreach, including the need to send, receive, track, and manage inbound and outbound communications.

Developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and managed by Abt Global, v-safe is a smartphone-based tool used to monitor COVID-19 vaccine safety and side effects in pregnant people. The tool allows individuals to report any side effects they experience after vaccination. After registering, participants receive a series of text messages and links to online surveys at pre-specified intervals asking them to report symptoms or side effects they may have experienced after vaccination. If a user experiences side effects, v-safe provides information and guidance on what to do, such as when to seek medical attention or how to manage symptoms at home. Abt generates weekly analytic datasets and call metrics dashboard reports to keep CDC apprised of study progress and provide data for ongoing analyses.

Contact Us

Brian Evans

Brian Evans, MBA, PMP

Senior Associate, Digital & Data Services

Durham, NC

Theresa Stroble

Theresa Stroble, MBA

Associate, Digital & Data Services

New York, NY

Jodi Walton

Jodi Walton, MA

Senior Associate, Digital & Data Services

Durham, NC

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