How state agencies improved the digital experience to serve Washingtonians better
Charged with a mission to serve the public, Washington state agencies consistently strive to find new ways to deliver a more effective customer experience. Here are some highlights of how agencies recently restructured and changed the way they deliver services, offer information to taxpayers and provide a more user-friendly digital experience.
Health Care Authority
An estimated 150,000 school employees will enroll in the new School Employees Benefits Board Program this fall. To support employees in this shift to a statewide health benefits program, the Health Care Authority is offering innovative online tools.
HCA built a “virtual benefits fair,” where employees can use their computer, tablet or smartphone to browse online booths and learn about medical plan options, among other things. The booths will offer videos, downloadable content, provider searches and other information to help employees choose the right plans for them and their dependents.
For those who want more guidance, HCA is offering an online benefits advisor tool that asks employees questions about their health care needs, then suggests which medical, dental and vision plans might make the most sense for them.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) launched a new website in March. With nearly 70 percent of its website users visiting on mobile or tablet devices, WDFW built its new website with a user-centered design philosophy in mind, emphasizing a mobile-first approach for improved user experience and accessibility.
The website project team developed five profiles, known as “personas”, to reflect the characteristics, interests and needs of website visitors. The team based these personas on user research data that informed how they organized and designed the new site.
Working with an outside contractor, the agency conducted several rounds of in-person and online usability tests before constructing the website. Some of the testers expressed that the old website was difficult to navigate, especially on a mobile device. WDFW also heard that the site wasn’t well designed for screen readers and other accessible devices, so they worked to make that a priority with the new site.
With this new website, WDFW now has a platform that will help them meet their customers where they are. Users can even view fishing rules and hunting season changes right from their boat or tree stand.
Regulatory Innovation and Assistance Office
For anyone starting a business, learning how to navigate state regulations can be confusing. That’s a large reason why the Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance re-launched Business.wa.gov, the state’s central hub for business assistance. The new site offers enhanced services with a stronger customer focus:
- People appreciate a quick, clear answer from a real person. So, the new site offers free assistance services from a pro, through online live chat and text message options in addition to existing phone and email methods. This change alone has more than tripled the number of customer requests coming through.
- There is so much to think about when a business is starting up, that it’s hard to know where to begin — and even harder to know when you might have missed something important. So, the state provides a simplified checklist of what people need to do to get started. Business owners can also get access to a comprehensive Small Business Guide. The guide details the steps for starting, running and growing a business. The guide lists helpful resources, the latest changes in regulations and is available in six languages.
- Sometimes people starting a new business hit bumps along the road with a particular permit or license. To help iron out those bumps, the state has a Small Business Liaison employee stationed at every agency that administers business regulations. Their job is to problem-solve and listen to businesses’ needs when a business encounters a problem.
ORIA Director Aaron Everett said the agency needed to revamp some of the great services already offered by the state so that the agency could reach people more effectively.
“But this is just the beginning,” Everett said. “Technology has advanced to the point where we can make people’s experience with government as convenient as buying goods on Amazon. This state leads in so many other areas of economic prosperity, and small business deserves to share in the best of our innovations, too.”
Washington State Department of Agriculture
In the past year, the agency replaced its 15-year-old website with a new, mobile compatible website, making it easier for visitors to view information on their smart phones and tablets. The agency updated the site navigation to reflect popular subjects, instead of organizational structure.
To share important information, the agency created a Facebook group specifically for Washingtonians interested in this past spring’s gypsy moth eradication efforts. The agency offered real-time updates during the treatment period to reach a more mobile-friendly audience, and social media followers could ask questions and receive prompt responses from agency staff and other group members. The agency also used email listservs and automated text messaging to alert the public about planned treatments.
The agency has also expanded availability of its Electronic Cattle Tracking Reporting System, an important tool for livestock owners to report animal sales. Previously limited to dairy cow owners, the system is now available to cattle owners so they can report any change in cattle ownership online.
Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission
Washington State Parks recently made the first major update to its reservation system in a decade. The enhanced system improves customers’ digital experience with a more intuitive, mobile-friendly web navigation and a map-based interface.
When visitors arrive at a Washington state park, they can now check in (through their smartphone) by referencing the bar code from their printed or emailed reservation confirmation letter.
Other new features to the reservation system include the addition of 90 campsites and 38 cabins at two popular state parks (Cama Beach and Camano Island), which were previously on their own reservation system. Visitors can also make reservations at seven additional day-use facilities statewide and six group camps in the San Juan Islands. Visitors can make reservations for multiple parks in one online session, and pre-purchase extra-vehicle permits online.
The new system also allows Washington State Parks to offer specials and promotions to its customers. The first promotion offers $5 off camping at select state parks in September.
Users can save their profile information — such as trailer lengths or discount pass numbers — online for convenience.
Visitors can experience the new reservation system through the Parks website.
Washington State Department of Revenue
The Washington State Department of Revenue recently took its free, popular mobile app and redesigned it based on customer feedback. The app, called WA Tax Rates, offers a fast and easy way for businesses to look up a Washington sales tax rate from anywhere.
Businesses can search either by using GPS or by looking up an address. When the business makes deliveries or has multiple job sites, the app lets them look up the correct rate and calculate the sales tax to charge.
Here are some of the main features and improvements:
- You don’t need a login to access any of the app’s features. You can find the combined state and local tax rate at your current location using GPS, or by entering in an address.
- You can easily name, save and share locations via email or text message.
- You can enter your taxable amount for each location, and the app will calculate the sales tax and total charge for you.
- You can download or share a spreadsheet (CSV file) with all your saved locations for importing into your accounting system. You can also upload saved locations to cloud storage in a TXT or CSV file format.
- You can view locations on a satellite map.
Learn more and download the app on Revenue’s website.