How many citizens are slipping through your government agency’s enrollment cracks?The surprising way to increase citizen program enrollment (1)

Whether your agency targets at-risk individuals with vital services like early child intervention or is charged with collecting tax revenue that keeps the government running, there’s always a gap between eligibility and enrollment. Maybe your target constituent is a low-income single mother who can’t seem to make time to apply for benefits, or a new business owner whose focus is on growth, not compliance.

Agency and program directors often think the answer to increasing citizen engagement in programs and services lies in two main areas:

  1. Getting the word out that the programs exist; and
  2. Providing excellent service to those enrolled in programs.

While awareness and service are vital components of citizen engagement, even more fundamental is the step in between: getting a constituent to enroll in the first place. Your target citizens like that low-income single mother or busy entrepreneur may know there’s a program, but if they don’t participate, you can’t provide excellent service.

The surprising way to increase citizen engagement in your programs and services

Your program’s success hinges on your agency’s ability to engage constituents, and the most critical time to engage is during what Lexmark calls the First Mile: that initial, information-intensive interaction a new applicant must have with your agency when enrolling for the first time.

Program enrollment is where you:

  • Close the gap between the percentage of citizens who are eligible or required to participate and the percentage that actually participate. Nearly every agency, whether federal, state or local, struggles with that gap. An analysis of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits by the nonprofit Food Research & Action Center, for example, noted that about 17 percent of eligible participants go unserved, including nearly six in ten elderly persons.
  • Kick off the relationship on the right foot and gain the trust of those most in need of your services.
  • Have the opportunity to create a fast, flexible and frictionless experience for your constituents, even in the most information-intensive part of your relationship.

A seamless program enrollment experience creates loyal citizen engagement

The reality of program enrollment, much like other intensive onboarding processes like a mortgage or car loan application or joining a new company, is that it’s a pain in the neck even with the simplest process you could design. If your agency is like many government agencies that continue to serve more people with fewer resources year over year, your process is probably not-so-simple.

What does your program enrollment experience look like from the outside in? Put yourself in your constituent’s shoes and mentally walk through the process, asking yourself these questions:

  1. How many forms do I have to fill out to complete a new application? How many of those forms ask for the same information over and over because they’re needed for separate internal processes but feel redundant to the applicant?
  2. Is the application easy to turn in? Did I have to fill out real paper and print and mail it? At the other extreme, could I quickly complete an application on my mobile phone?
  3. How long before I received confirmation that the application was received? Processed? Accepted or rejected? Did I understand what was happening throughout the process, or did it feel like a black hole of communication?
  4. At any point, did I have to communicate with an employee about the status of my application? Were staff members able to easily find my file and keep me up to date?
  5. And, the most important question: Was there any point in the application process when I wanted to simply quit because it was far too much work?

How does your program enrollment experience stack up? Take our seven-question assessment and take steps to improve your agency’s program enrollment experience.

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