THE PUBLIC SERVICE SOCIAL NETWORK: THE NEW DIGITAL RELATIONSHIP WITH CUSTOMERS/USERS. BY RONALD BOUCHER, RESEARCH PROFESSOR AT ISTEC
The relationship between public services and citizens has evolved since the 1990s towards a greater focus on the user. This new citizen/public services relationship has led to a shift in roles. The user has transitioned from being an executor in their interactions with public services to becoming a co-constructing client of services. In other words, the user/client moves from a vertical and bureaucratic relationship to a holacratic relationship with public services. In the era of digitalization, social media appears to be the optimal means for the development of this user-client/public services co-production. What are the forms it takes?
CLASSIC MODELS OF SOCIAL WEB
Social web, also known as Web 2.0, is by definition a web of co-construction. The principle is simple: the possibility for a community, through a web platform (website, blog, forum, etc.), to interact through discussion and conversation with a company and/or other members of the community. The main channels for these interactions are social media, social networks, and social networking sites. Social media mainly includes communication tools such as WhatsApp, Teams, or Zoom. Social networks consist of blogs, forums, and wikis. Lastly, social networking sites are composed of contact-based sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, as well as content-based sites like YouTube or Instagram.
Both private and public companies use these platforms to communicate with and closely listen to their customers/users. The objective of social web is primarily to create an informal and conversational relationship. In other words, a relationship where users and public services engage in horizontal communication (holacratic relationship). The goal is to generate co-constructed information on how to complete administrative procedures. This information can be generated between public services and users or among users themselves. Some social web platforms are better suited for co-construction than others. There are numerous user support forums. For example, Boursorama.com and Commentçamarche.com provide support for tax-related inquiries, while roadtrippin.fr and village-justice.com assist with passport applications.
TOWARDS A PUBLIC SERVICE ENTERPRISE SOCIAL NETWORK MODEL
Private sector companies also offer support forums on their own websites, such as Sosh, an operator that allows its customer community to assist each other in resolving simple installation, customer service, or usage issues in exchange for a low-cost service. In a way, customers help each other. The advantage of this community is to reduce the involvement of brand employees, thereby lowering production costs.
If the idea is to apply this Enterprise Social Network model to public services, the objective is not to provide a low-value service. On the contrary, it aims to offer an alternative communication channel with a different voice—the voice of users. Indeed, given the often complex procedures and the importance of following protocols, the intention is to “simplify them through the user community, with access provided by a ‘Public Service Enterprise Social Network’. ” This network would be located directly on the website where users carry out their procedures. The development of this “PSESN” model is still ongoing but deserves particular attention in order to enable a new, updated form of relationship between public services and their user-clients.
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