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Today’s episode of Government Contracting A to Z is especially important for government employees and government contractors. If Gov 2.0 and the Government’s Digital Strategy impacts your job, your agency, or your work environment, then today’s show is for you!
Broadcasting from the Winvale Studio at Washington, D.C. Welcome to Government Contracting A to Z about letting the latest insights, trends and newsmaker in the world of federal state and local government contracting. For more on Winvale visit W-I-N-V-A-L-E.com. Now, here's your host, Kevin Lancaster.
Hello and welcome! My name is Kevin Lancaster, Managing Partner of Winvale and the host of Government Contracting A to Z where our goal is to provide you, the listeners, the aspiring were seasoned government contractor with the latest insights, trends and newsmakers in the world of government contracting. I want to thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule today to listen in and I'm really excited to be sharing this episode with you and I hope you find a lot of value out of today's program along with the many more episodes to come. So before we get started I would be remiss if I didn't encourage all of our listeners to head over to our sponsor website, Winvale to find out how we can help accelerate your government sales, marketing and contracting opportunities including the development of your GSA schedule contract. The site is W-I-N-V-A-L-E.com, so again enough of the plugs. Today's episode, episode 5, is our first technology focused podcast with Duke Chung of Parature. This is especially important for those government employees and government contractors wrangling with the Government 2.0 evolution and the government's digital strategy. If you are one of the fans of the latest Government 2.0 and in particularly around topics including citizen engagement then today's show is for you. So with that I'm going to cover a couple of the topics here that we're going to thrown out once we bring on our guest and so they'll include, how a digital government has changed and is changing the way we engage with the government, the different channels and forms of communication that exist today, what people now expect because of these different channels, how government communication and transparency is impacting citizen lives, and we'll give you really interesting anecdotal story from this most recent hurricane, Hurricane Sandy and what we can learn from this and how technology can evolve with the Digital Government Strategy. So with that I'm grateful again to have Duke Chung of Parature joining me today as our industry expert.
And I'll give you a little bit of info straight from his bio and then we will hop right into it. Here's a little about Duke here. Duke Chung co-founded Parature with a vision to provide superior customer service and social engagement software accessible via the intermittent. Today, characters cloud-based product support over 15 million N-users worldwide in diverse industries from associations, federal on education institutions, gaining services and technology companies. Duke is recognized as one of the top entrepreneurs in the greater Washington Metropolitan Region and is widely recognized for pioneering innovation. To receive such honors being named one of the Washingtonian magazine's Power 150 as a rising star and most recently with Bisnow with their award of the Top 35 under 35 Entrepreneurs in the Washington, D.C. region. So with that I'm going to bring on Duke. And Duke, can you hear me there?
Yes, Kevin. It's too great to be here, thank you.
Great. We're off to a good start. So if you could -- you were guarded and have this an industry expert, if you could give us an overview on kind of what you guys are doing over there at Parature, from your perspective and just give us a little insight in the latest with Parature here.
Sure. Sure. So Parature is kindly described here what its doing was great. We're a provider of customer service offer. We have been in business for over 10 years and primarily we started our business focused on a commercial side so we worked with some really incredible clients to help them with their customer service and support capabilities. Some of our commercial clients include the Washington Post and the NBA for example, even some up and coming technology companies like Evernotes for note taking so it really is a broad range and we were really fortunate to work with all of these clients. And all of these folks are using Parature to manage their customer service questions, make it easier to improve the customer experience with their customers and we think this is all really important especially in today's age where customers are everywhere or your customers are everywhere and the companies need to think about how to continuously interact with everybody and making sure they are listening to everybody from each of the different channels. So it's a really exciting time to be in the customer service business and industry today more than it's ever been before.
That's great. So if you could from your perspective does this talk of the government's new Digital Strategy and the Open Government Initiative, now how's that change in the way government agencies are communicating with citizens and I'm sure you guys are at the doorstep of that, this whole idea of Gov2.0 and Open Government and how are you seeing that evolve here?
It's a great question Kevin and it did say -- they mention the cladding time for commercial. It is probably even more exciting and now in the public sector and then the federal space specifically. There is a wide range of initiatives and you have mentioned a couple of them here, Government 2.0 and open communication, Open Government as part of that and with that we're seeing really important trends happening now in this federal space and focus around communication. Number one, this idea of information-centric approach as one of the key initiatives under this Government 2.0 Open Government category and this idea of information centric is bringing as much content the government has and making them available online. Making that content available online for citizens and constituencies that are coming to easily access that information in a variety of format. So whether it's made available through the website to be browsable and researchable or in documents like pdf documents making them easy for the N users or constituencies are to download and access that one, may be even through the mobile phone. If you are traveling on a road and don't have access then an important piece of information you need, information for you're looking and you can gain access on your mobile device so this first concept we think is really, really important making all this information available for the constituencies out there, and the reason why that's important is citizens can now access its content anytime and no longer they have to maybe wait on the phone and talk to somebody to get information but they can go online and gain access anytime. So number one is information centric. Number two, is this idea notion of what we call shared platform and what that is, is making the information available but through technologies like cloud computing capabilities were helping to host the infrastructure.
Agencies cannot only support citizens with information but they can turn around and make this information available to other agencies as well. So heavy one platform that is easily deployable and serving multiple N-users, whether its citizens, whether its businesses, whether its other agencies that need access to this information as well so making resources shared in a platform we think is really important, it's called shared platform. And then the third one that we're seeing as a really important trend around this Government 2.0 and Open Government is the idea of focusing on a customer-centric approach and that's about making sure that the government is putting the customer first. In this case, maybe it's really the citizens and the constituencies out there putting them first when it comes to pole the information accessibility, accuracy, making sure they're understanding what the customers need in this case and what exactly are they really interested only understand that will you be able to provide the right type of content and make that available, and then of course making sure this information is available across all these different channels that we talked about so that the citizens could be accessing it from different places. So this is all with the mindset of the customer-centric approach. So that would be the really what we see is the third area focused around Government 2.0 and Open Government.
That's great. So you threw out a term there this concept of multi-channel communications. Can you explain what that is and whether people have different levels of expectation in terms of engagement these days relative to five years or 10 years ago?
Yes. Of course. And it's fascinating to look at the trends on how this has progressed. 15 or 20 years ago and when you think of multi channel there really was only one channel, maybe two at the time and that was primarily phone as really the key areas of getting a way to communicate with the organization and maybe fax was really the other way. So you look at these two channels and you think back at the times. These really the two ways that every citizen would choose to interact with the government and over the last 15 years you've seen a lot of innovation around technology to create other new channels and when you think about today there are so many different ways to communicate with the agencies today and they include email as a more popular way that's rivaling phone and of course maybe eliminating fax in that case. There is the entire internet and the web infrastructure being able to go online to get your information and be able to ask your question right through the website and to track the status of your issues through that medium. And then of course now in the last two to three years you've seen the explosion of social media which is really transforming in some ways redefining this entire communication channel and today we've got folks that could actually go online and citizens that could go on their Facebook page of these agencies and ask their question right through there. They can of course tweet to the agencies and when they do this they expect to get responses. So they want the agencies to reply back to them through Twitter and through Facebook or maybe through LinkedIn and other groups as well. And we haven't talked about text messaging and we also haven't talked about the mobile as well as other ways that you could communicate.
So in today's age you've got all of these different types of communication channels and it's more important than ever before that all these federal agencies adopt a multi-channel strategy, which means that they are listening and engaging in all of these different channels because citizens and businesses and other agencies out there could choose any one of these channels to communicate with that agency. So that's how we would define a multi-channel approach to communication.
Got it. I understand Parature has got a pretty diverse government customer list and growing. Can you give me some maybe specific examples, maybe some agencies that you are working with and how their adoption to these types of technologies and how do they impact in the communication with citizens?
Of course, we're delighted to be working with some incredible clients in the federal space. Two of them come to mine as far as really good examples that I can think of by the way, the first one is the EPA. We're working about 30 different offices there primarily the focus on one of the big things I talked about earlier which is the information-centric approach helping them to develop and deliver a self-service capability across the EPA properties and the idea there is that anybody out there, citizens and constituencies can come on the EPA site and they could easily find answers to questions that they have and across anything related to EPA. It can be very basic questions, it could be more complex questions but the important thing is all of the information of these questions and answers are available for them at any time, 365 24/7 days out of a year right on their website. One of the properties that energystar.gov is many of you guys will know maybe on your refrigerator. If you have any questions for example about that not surprising number one most viewed and knowledge-based sort of con there is how do I get my tax credit for my Energystar Appliance. It's viewed...
I think it thirst that.
Yeah. There you go, Kevin (Laughs). So you'd be a perfect candidate as a great example probably one of several million and other people out there that have the same the question making go, even go right to the energystar.gov website, access their self-service knowledge base and right there the answer will tell you what you need to do which forms you need, what you need to do step by step to help you get that tax credit and now think about if you didn't have his article and information available, all of these questions would have been emails to the EPA, Energystar group or maybe phone calls right, or even Facebook post and they would all having the same question so it's a way to help the government be more efficient here and also improve that experience for the citizen to get the information they need anytime having this self-service knowledge base on there is just a really incredible way to amplify that experience when it comes to the customer experience. And then the other agency I can think of here that might be -- slightly different in this case but also a very fascinating is DFAS, DFAS is the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. They are the group that supports all the service men and women and family members around the world for the United States and the way they chose to engage with this group of constituencies out there is instead of going into the website at dafas.gov, they had everything go through their Facebook page. Now, you can realize that in a most of the folks here, service men and women, many of them are outside the US in service and dong a great job for our country of course and they don't have access to the internet capabilities that we're privilege to have here in the US so outside of the US it's a lot of this in mobile and a lot of this in social capabilities.
So whenever any of these folks have a question back to the DFAS organization, they ask and go to their Facebook page and ask a question right through their Facebook page and this group at DFAS will respond back to any of those questions right through the Facebook page and so that they're always getting their answers in certain time with manner. And again another just really fascinating news case it's leveraging a newer technology like Facebook and really taking the advantage of that platform and channel to really focus on engaging with the citizens and constituencies there. So that's the other example that we really like to share a lot as well about what we're doing with Federal.
That's great. Let's shift gears here a little bit. There is a story I guess about a half a month ago now with super storm Sandy. The story about the New York City Fire Department Social Media Managers sitting at their desk for something like 32 hours straight, answering citizen's question and responding, do actually emergency calls over Twitter because phone lines were damaged and people could not call directly in the 911, and it's obviously speaking the volume to the impact that social engagement and platforms like what Parature provide is really affecting or changing people's lives. From those types of incidents and to the recent unfortunate incidents in Connecticut with past couple of days, what are some lessons learned from these events? I mean how you're taking these examples and helping to evolve your technologies going forward?
Yeah. That's a great example there, Kevin. It just kind of goes to show you how the times are changing so quickly and when it comes to leveraging some of these newer forms of communication channels in this case like Twitter where you talked about. It is really important to understand these technologies and understand how to leverage them for the right reasons to improve communications. So if there were lessons that we could share from that example in others here. Number one, you have to recognize and realize that citizens are using these forms of communication today. It's Twitter, it's Facebook, it's still phone, it's email but you have to understand that citizens are using these forms especially these newer forms of communication channels out there. Number two, because every group is different and their preferences are different we like to say that providing a multi-channel access and capability to really listen to any of the questions coming in across any of these channels is equally important. It's a really effective form of communicating especially like in your example in times of need. You need to make sure you are there when there is crisis that happens and you've got citizens that leverage that communication channel. You've got to be there to help them, and third especially in social media, an example that you gave here, I think it's really, really important following the team in times in need the response times, the timeliness is really critical. No longer can we wait a couple of days that respond to someone over an email specifically now in social media. Two days would be too long. They've got be able to response back immediately. So the timeliness, we call it hyperresponsiveness is really a shift across these newer channels like social media.
The expectation is getting a tweet back really quickly to help you with your answers. So understanding the channels and the behaviors within the channels, in this case the timeliness of responses is really, really important lesson that needs to be addressed.
Got it. You know a lot of our listeners are government employees that are task with improving their agency's overall transparency and affecting citizen engagement. Where do they start? What's the best piece of advice for an agency that may be keeping their toe in this concept of transparency and engagement? Where do they start?
The first piece of advice is number one just being open minded and understanding what's changing. So they're always say you have to really sometimes step out and take a look around and see what's really changing so you understand how to make the shift and once you're open to that then focus on -- actually really some simple things, number one make it very easily -- focus on it really easily accessible communication strategy. So make things simple. Make it easy. Focus on that. At the end of the day the citizens and the constituencies out there really want to engage with you in a simple and easy way and don't over complicate it. Number two is follow that theme, often times overlook. Make sure everything is written, especially in the information content approach in very simple plain language that everyone can understand. Too many organizations that we've worked were trying to over complicate the messaging and responses back. We always say go with something really simple, plain, make it straightforward and to the point. So focus on creating content with that thought. Number three, very similar to our message earlier. Make sure you have a multi-channel strategy. So one that incorporates phone even live chat, we didn't talk about that. The live chat is live chat is a very up and coming real time way to communicate with the organization and then user. So look at that as an example. All the web channels that we talked about on your website, email of course and social, Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn. Many channels are here to say and many of the N-users are living in these channels. Make sure you've got a strategy for all the social as well.
And then last two points, focusing on the experience, making sure that you engage with the people and your responses. Make sure you are efficient in doing that and number two make sure you're timely. They can't wait two more days to respond to Twitter post. You've got to be able to do that really quickly, right? So that's really important and I would say one of the things we've learned a lot and especially coming in for the commercial side is really the value of consistency of accurate answers. You don't want to tweet to the organization, get one answer and then also email and get a different answer because you've got different folks with different answers responding back to each of these channels separately. You've got to have some consistency there across all these channels and that's really, really important. That's how you really gain the confidence of the N-user. Regardless whichever channel they come in from getting the same consistent answer that's accurate and in that way they really build the loyalty and will trust that every experience that they engage with your federal agencies gonna be consistent and accurate.
Yeah, I can see that as being a paramount I guess to gain the word out there and giving information out to citizens. So I just want to thank you for taking the time and providing such great information, great detail on kind of what you guys are up to and how you're seeing this industry evolve. I have to commend you for being able to keep up with the time, not actually not just keep up but actually read the charge in this little concept of engagement. It's amazing.
Thank you, Kevin. If anything, it's been a lot of fun and we've learned a lot over the years working with our clients and really excited to be helping federal clients today and we're looking to help in any capacity that we can so we're staying, making sure we stay innovative and at a fore fun of these technologies and pleasure to be sharing this information with you today as well, Kevin.
Well thanks. Thanks for your time. Thanks for hopping on. With that we're going to wrap up here and so thanks again, we're gonna have some links to the Parature site in the show notes your post interview and thanks again for hopping on dude.
Thank you so much, Kevin.
Well, to our listeners be sure you get a full recap of Duke's interview and learn more about Parature by checking out the show note as I mentioned on our website, governmentcontract.com and look under the Government Contracting A to Z page. I want to thank you for tuning in and helping make this podcast possible. If you like what you heard please hop over to iTunes and leave us some feedback on the show. Also, if you are interested you can follow me on Twitter by searching for @GovernmentSales. You can also follow Winvale for searching for @Winvale. If you'd like to send us a question or a topic you'd like to learn more about feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be sure to respond all of your inquiries and questions and certainly this helps us to provide you, the listener, with more great content. So until next time, we wish you the best and hope your government contracting initiatives are thriving.
This podcast was brought to you by Winvale. Winvale, providing commercial organisation, government contract and GSA schedule consulting, government business development and sales support services. To learn how Winvale can help accelerate your government opportunities, visit winvale.com. That's W-I-N-V-A-L-E.com or call 20229655.
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It's good to talk.