Governments of all levels provide a massive breadth of services. Unfortunately, the average user does not know about these services or cannot easily navigate them because there are so many.
Government services can also be confusing to outside users. Technical language, for example, can create a barrier between the government and the residents and visitors it wishes to serve.
Users might also have an unrealistic expectation of how much the government can do for them. Although government services are massive in scope, they don’t cover everything a resident or visitor needs.
Enter the self-service government, a concept outlined by an article in The Atlantic and made possible with technology like enterprise service catalogs.
What is a Government Enterprise Service Catalog?
A service catalog showcases what is available in plain language, adding ease of navigation for every user.
Government enterprise service catalogs define services and how users can access them from the user’s perspective. They show how the government works to help taxpayers and stakeholders, giving only the information needed to navigate and understand.
Ultimately, a government enterprise service catalog gives people a communication channel that works. They know where to start getting help or information and what that process will look like. This sets reasonable expectations, time frames, and service standards to efficiently use resources while encouraging user satisfaction.
As with other enterprise service catalogs, there’s another bonus for government — self-service. Frequently, people need information or access to a form. These simple requests are readily handled with self-service ESC features, including tracking requests or using a knowledgebase.
Users can access the level of support they need and see how long it’ll take to have the request dealt with. On the staff side, there’s no need to waste time with requests that users themselves can handle.
Services in a Government Portal
While academic enterprise service catalogs are focused on a highly specific demographic, government enterprise service catalogs need to be more general. After all, all levels of government exist to serve residents who exemplify many different demographics. This means that government enterprise service catalogs must be especially easy to navigate, user-friendly, and often translatable.
Government enterprise service catalogs also have to cover more ground. For every department of government, there is a list of services, which means these portals can get quite large. Again, organization is vital, as is ensuring that every service a resident or visitor could need is well-represented in the catalog.
A government enterprise service catalog needs to do a lot of work without being overwhelming. It can be a challenging balance to strike, but the benefits are well worth the effort. Choosing the right software can make all the difference, as this creates a strong backbone for even the most extensive service catalog.
Government Enterprise Service Catalogs: Examples
The United States government has a beta version of usa.gov, its official website, showing one efficient way to organize a service catalog.
At the very top of the site, as soon as a user loads the page, there is a list of the most frequently accessed items, including money, laws, and information about the government. There’s also a link to “all topics and services” so people know exactly where to browse through services or find what they need.
This beta page is designed to be very simple and easy to navigate. It is text-heavy, with no distracting images, but not so wordy that people get lost. Key topics are organized in alphabetical order with simple graphic icons helping give context to those struggling to read or understand. The landing page covers many topics without overloading the screen with a link for every issue.
Clicking a specific topic – for example, education – brings the user to a sub-page that is again organized with the most popular, relevant content at the top. Then, further issues are subdivided, leading to self-service information such as finding courses to learn English as a second language or learning how to get a student visa.
The service catalog has a crucial feature: information on where to get help outside of the catalog itself. The text highlights that questions can be asked of a real person for free and provides both a telephone and chat option.
California State Government
The California state government website is another excellent example of an enterprise service catalog at work. Essential information is laid out where it is easy to find, and services and agencies are split into two different sub-pages. Entering the service catalog is as easy as hitting ‘Find a service’ and sorting through alphabetical listings or typing the required service into a search bar.
Each short service listing on the alphabetical page shows what department or agency is responsible for that service. When the user clicks a specific service, for example, ‘Apply for a birth certificate,’ they are taken to another page. This part of the service catalog explains what the service is and how it works, as well as showing related services that may be of interest.
It shows physical locations near the user that may be of service, frequently asked questions about the service, and contact information for the agency in charge. In many cases, users can launch the service right from the catalog listing with a button going to the relevant webpage of the overseeing agency. This shows the details of each service, including wait times and fees.
City of New York
You can imagine the numerous services and service requests requiring management for a city as big as the Big Apple! New York City boasts NYC 311, a service catalog and self-service portal that is easily visible on its main page. It follows suit with the other examples, highlighting some of the most used services and an A-to-Z option. In addition to clicking through specific topics, users can report problems, look up their service requests, or make payments through the service catalog.
When the user clicks a topic, for example, ‘Noise,’ it brings up a further list of services and issues, from fireworks complaints to noise from various items — airplanes, alarms, a park, lawn equipment, and much, much more. Clicking any of those headers brings up a service page with different options.
For example, navigating to ‘Noise from an Airplane’ tells users that they can complain about noise from local airports. It gives the option to fill out and submit a form online first before giving phone information for the Port Authority. Now, if people in NYC wake up disgruntled by noise, they just have to get online to do something about it.
Looking up service requests allows users to find their requests or correspondence based on unique assigned numbers. Or, they can see a map of service requests which can be filtered by location, date, or topic. This lets users know if a widespread issue has already been reported, like noise or an unsanitary condition. The individual request shows when it was reported, which agency is dealing with it, and when a user can expect an update.
Users who need to make a payment, be it for a bill or a fine, have access to numerous agencies that take payment, again, all managed online.
NYC311 is available at all times so that people can use the service catalog whenever needed. In addition, the information can be translated into over 100 languages with a dropdown menu. Those who need a different language can access phone service.
Benefits to Citizens and Governments
Enterprise service catalogs, particularly those that allow for some level of self-service, are helping governments provide essential services to residents while ensuring that every resource is allocated efficiently.
Giving users choices for which channel they use frees up the more traditional channels for those who need extra help. While people with low literacy skills, troublesome internet connectivity, or inexperience with self-service will still be able to call or visit for government services, many modern users will appreciate being able to help themselves quickly.
Instead of making everyone stay in the same line for phone service, for example, an enterprise service catalog drastically reduces that backlog, giving people the information and service they need at the speed they want.
Staff managing requests and services can be more responsive without being overwhelmed. Automated services essentially take care of themselves, leaving time to manage more nuanced issues.
Paperwork does not pile up, nobody has to wait in long physical lines, and there’s no need to worry about slow mail service — all the classic complaints about government services are handled. Citizens will have more confidence in the government to consistently provide the information and services they need. Of course, efficiencies for the government translate to cost savings for taxpayers, which is always a win.
Self-service portals can be more accessible and accommodating as people can access the information from where they are comfortable, using multi-language support to translate information into their chosen language.
At GroupLink, we offer cloud-based e-workflow and work-from-home solutions that benefit organizations of many kinds. Our solutions each allow for creating Enterprise Service Catalog (ESC) components and include SafestSchools,Workflow Process and Incident Tracking, and GroupLink everything HelpDesk. With these platforms, you can increase Student Safety and operational efficiency, collaboration, and accountability – while significantly reducing the District’s liability and risk associated with safety issues. Connect with us online or call us at 801-335-0700. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.