3 Ways to Smoothly Migrate Users to a Digital Platform

Hands gesturing toward a mobile device and designs on paper

Looking back, I feel like things took forever back in “the day.” 

If you wanted to book a flight, you’d have to take a trip to an airline ticket office or a travel agency, wait in line, listen to all of the flight options, recite your personal information multiple times for clarity, and then get yourself back home. 

If you wanted to reserve a public space for a community event, you’d have to drive or take public transportation to City Hall and wait in line behind all of your neighbors before being serviced. 

In this day and age, people can complete both of those tasks in one elevator ride, right from their smartphones. 

It should follow that moving processes from an offline platform to a digital one should immediately make things easier for your users - no ifs, ands, or buts. 

But (apparently, there is a “but”) what if “going digital” isn’t the immediate panacea to all of our constituents’ inconveniences?

If the 2020 Iowa Caucus mobile app disaster is any indication, there’s more to innovating your customer experience than creating a digital platform where one didn’t exist before. Regardless of the issues with the code itself, the way users were introduced to the platform left a ton of room for error.

When brand new digital platforms fail, it’s just as often a strategic problem as it is a technical one.

The risk of failure shouldn’t prevent anyone from investing in innovative technology, though. According to research conducted by McKinsey, digital transformation can generate a 20-30% increase in customer satisfaction. 

So what separates the successful migrations to a digital platform from those that fall flat?

1. They address a user’s end goal, not the individual steps they’re currently taking to achieve it.

When taking a process that is mostly (or 100%) offline and making it digital, it’s more important to solve what your customer is trying to accomplish than to “fix” one or many of the individual steps they’re taking to achieve that goal.

In their report, “Solving the Customer Experience Puzzle: A Guidebook for Government Leaders” McKinsey & Company correctly identified this dichotomy as one between “journey redesign” and “process improvement.” 

Here’s an example:

Say citizens are concerned about the time it takes to receive approval on an application for a building permit. A “process improvement” approach may focus on the time it takes for an applicant to complete one step in the process, like securing an appointment with one city department to have their portion of the application reviewed.

Someone taking a “journey redesign” approach, however, may consider removing some approval requirements or creating a single portal through which a user can communicate back and forth with multiple departments (Public Works, Fire Department, Health Department, etc.) instead of having numerous points of contact.

The report also posits that successful organizations take responsibility for a customers’ entire journey, even if some of the touchpoints in their experience aren’t fully under their control. For instance, the US Department of State mapped out a constituent’s journey from applying to receiving a passport, and they found that the step at which most applications were delayed was the approval of the individual’s photo.

Related content: What Data Can Tell You About Your User Experience 

Instead of limiting the scope of their work to internal approval processes, they invested in training, equipment, and technology to help approved partners at post offices and drug stores improve the photos they were taking of passport applicants. As a result, fewer passport applications were denied, and citizens’ satisfaction with the experience increased.

2. They incorporate customer feedback at every stage in the process.

Successful digital projects prioritize what their users feel are important, and the best way to find out what your customers think is important is to ask them! 

At the outset of a project, research has found that holding online or in-person forums, requesting ideas for improvement in satisfaction survey, and even “hackathons,” or events during which members of the public can contribute to digital projects that citizens may find useful, are all impactful ways for constituents to contribute to transformative digital initiatives.

User feedback is even more important once a prototype of the new digital experience becomes available. Conduct user testing sessions with people who closely mirror your audience, and solve for confusion or frustration with both the digital experience and the offline context around that experience (more on that in point #3). 

Related content: How Does User Testing Improve Quality and Reduce Business Risk? 

In the case of mission-critical systems, it’s especially important to test for usability, security (penetration testing, anyone?), and accessibility before rolling a product out to your audience at large. According to the CDC, one in four U.S. adults reports having a disability, and designing systems that can be used by everyone is especially important for the public sector.

Related content: 7 Ways an Accessible Site Improves Usability for All 

Finally, iteration upon the initial system should be led by customer needs. Set the expectation that user input will be taken into consideration to encourage citizens to stay involved beyond the launch of version one.

3. They’re led by humans, for humans.

Transformative digital change is hard. When people who are accustomed to one process have to take completely different steps to achieve a goal, what we may consider to be “easy” doesn’t always feel that way to your users.

This is why the onboarding process is so important, and why organizations implementing new digital systems should continuously monitor their users’ experiences for signs of trouble.

For instance, do users know immediately to download the app from an App Store, or do you need to include that step in your user instructions?

Will your users enter their personal information into a digital system without being explicitly reassured that their data will be secure?

Do users intuitively understand how to set up multi-factor authentication, or do you need to remind them ahead of time that they’ll need access to another device (like a smartphone) to complete the registration process? 

Will your users need access to the internet to use your system, or can they access it from anywhere using cellular data?

If they’re interacting with a touchscreen, are your customers familiar with common gestures that allow them to zoom in, zoom out, select elements, and hide them?

These aren’t purely digital issues that you need to address during the implementation process; they’re human ones, too. 

Making your users the center of your digital strategy will help ensure that your new platforms are used to their fullest potential and will make the biggest possible impact on your audience’s experience.