EL SEGUNDO, Calif. and YUMA, Ariz., March 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Using a research-based approach developed by the website experts at Vision, Yuma County, Arizona has launched a redesigned website that makes doing business with County government a snap.
The new yumacountyaz.gov site, launched late last year, was a labor of love for County Communications Director Kevin Tunell who, along with County Administrator Susan Thorpe, made customer service the highest priority in the overhaul of the county's seven-year-old website.
"Our previous website was designed around internal perceptions of what citizens want," said Tunell. "We had made a series of compromises to satisfy internal stakeholders and the result was that 90 percent of site visitors ended up viewing just 10 percent of the content. Analytics like these gave us the user experience information to demonstrate more clearly why we were making certain decisions about design and navigation."
Research also showed that people in Yuma County want to do their government business online. But they want to get in and get out, as quickly as possible and, according to Tunell, the old site wasn't satisfying that need.
Serving a Yuma County population of more than 200,000 spread across 5,522 square miles presents unique customer service challenges.
"Basing our redesign on science, rather than emotion, helped keep everyone on the same page as we worked to transform our web presence from a mere website to a customer service portal," Tunell said. "We wanted the site to touch people; to connect with them on a level they totally aren't expecting."
Drawing on their experiences in the private sector, the Yuma team envisioned four levels of customer service:
- Immediate service via online chat
- Online service request forms with a promise of 24-hour response
- An online directory giving citizens the ability to contact staff directly
- Social media pages for ongoing engagement
"The idea of offering personal assistance through live chat was a turning point in starting to view our communications department as a customer service center," Tunell explained. "We needed to become the Walmart greeters of the Yuma County website."
To help people quickly find what they want, the Yuma County homepage now has a giant Google-like search bar across the center, as well as drop-down menus from broad categories at the top of the page. At the bottom of the homepage, three tabs with large icons clearly display links to Popular Services, Meetings & Events, and News.
By studying the analytics, Tunell and his team were able to carry that same level of transparency and customer focus throughout the site. In addition to the Popular Services button on the homepage, each department page has customer service "widgets" leading to their own most-asked-for services.
Every page of the website features an option to live chat with a county staffer. It appears as the top option in the "Online Help Center" overlay on the right of every page. The chat function is supported by Tunell and four other county employees during normal business hours and can relay messages during off-hours. For mobile devices, the responsive design feature creates something more like an app menu with a small search bar, buttons taking people to popular destinations and a chat window at the bottom.
Tunell said the new customer service features have been a huge success. "The online chat is extremely popular,"' he said. "More than 2,500 chats were registered in January and we've added two more people to the chat team. We're now working to channel the chats to people in the appropriate departments, where we can answer questions more quickly and completely."
Tunell emphasized that the chat window is not intended for complaints or to provide a solution to every problem, but during the site's first week, the Yuma team was able to help a Marine in Afghanistan who had forgotten to pay his taxes and accessed the chat feature for guidance.
In addition, this website conversation is a two-way street. If they notice someone spending an inordinate amount of time on the website, the "help desk" staff can initiate a chat by asking, "Is there anything we can do to help you?" Site visitors can either respond with a question or ignore the message.
"We can point them in the right direction to get the help they need or link them to someone with the authority to address their issue. People are genuinely surprised to get a response from a human," Tunell laughed.
According to Vision, Yuma County is a national leader in creating more "user-centric" services for local residents. "Cities and counties across the country are just beginning to upgrade their websites to deliver digital services that match those offered in the private sector," said Ashley Fruechting, Vision's senior director of marketing. "By emphasizing customer service, Yuma County has taken a huge step in making the kind of personal connection with residents that fosters trust and ignites engagement."
For more information about Vision's transformative technology, or to request a free website review and consultation, please call 888-263-8847 or visit info.visioninternet.com/free-consultation.
Headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., Vision is a national leader in government website design, development and hosting with more than 700 government, non-profit and education clients in U.S. and Canadian communities with populations that range from less than 1,000 residents to more than 5 million. For more than 20 years, Vision has created cost-effective solutions that increase government efficiency, build transparency and promote interactive communications with citizens. The company's powerful, easy-to-use subscription-based content management system, visionLive™, keeps local government websites relevant and effective; and the new visionPulse™ community engagement platform enables local governments to gather feedback on important issues. For the second year in a row, Vision has been named to Government Technology magazine's GovTech 100, a listing of leading companies developing innovative or disruptive offerings to improve or transform government. The company also was named a top 10 company serving local government by Engaging Local Government Leaders in its 2016 ELGL Choice Awards.