Policing in the social media age

Ten years ago, a survey by Accenture found that less than a fifth of UK respondents were aware of the police using digital channels. Since then, further research has found that public awareness of police using social channels has increased – along with public expectations.

Jump forward to 2022, and the majority of us carry our lives in our mobile phones. There is an expectation for 24/7/365 availability. Is it feasible for police communications to be omni-present on digital channels? Is there an opportunity for automation to elevate the human interactions between citizens and the police?

Paul Lockyer, Accenture Consultant and former police officer, thinks there is. Accenture has been looking at trends in public safety, threat and risk, he explains:

Digital trends are coming into public safety. Certainly in policing, there’s an issue around trust. An important aspect with that trust element is the public’s expectations – they are significantly different to what they were. But through all of these trends, there’s a social media theme that comes through because it doesn’t matter what the crime is, in some place within that crime, it will have touched the digital world and it’s probably touched social media.

Tweeting nine-til-five

According to Lockyer, a number of forces already have staff looking at social media, but such resources are limited to particular shifts. This doesn’t help someone who takes to Twitter with an emergency at 3am. Real-time insights are needed. Rosie Anderson, Salesforce Front Office Transformation Lead (UKI, Accenture), has identified some of the challenges that need to be tackled.

Collaboration and continuity – a holistic view of the citizen. From resourcing to triage, police forces who want to make the most of social media need to collaborate across multiple teams and shifts. One officer may pick up a call but then need to finish their shift. Visibility is incredibly important – which means an audit trail of communications across different channels. As Anderson points out:

Understanding the citizen with a holistic view is not just on a case-by-case piece, it’s about understanding that sometimes people especially those in vulnerable positions communicate far more regularly across different channels.

Real-time insights and metrics. Twenty years ago, Lockyer recalls borough teams receiving 400 emergency calls and over 1,000 less serious requests for 90 officers in one shift. Factor in the omni-channel, and what does that look like for a sergeant running a control room?  He argues:

That means making impactful decisions about where to resource people, where I need to up-skill. That could change from force to force depending on what their community looks like.

Finding the signals amid the noise with proactive communication. Anderson cites the challenge here being to use tech such as the Salesforce platform and using it to “automate to elevate the human”. There are some things that can be done in real-time without having someone to triage it, she says:

For a lot of organizations, they need to be on multiple channels. Creating a channel-agnostic inbound routing is really important for policing and managing inbound content. Police see people retweeting their postcodes to share important information. In the current setup that produces multiple notifications but with automation, key words can help to prioritize whether the content is closed, shared, or used to monitor community needs and triaged. Insights can be used to deliver an experience on the real physical beat so that we’re in a place to provide an experience that’s more meaningful.

Unified future 

What does policing in the future look like for agents, officers and citizens? A lot more unified comms is one answer. For example, at Sussex Police, unified comms offering Sprinklr is integrated into Service Cloud using Salesforce Connector. It maps with the case management fields so that any cases that come in on social media can be integrated with cases in the system, rather than creating new or separate ones.

By using omni-channel case management, the tool helps agents get a full view of all the conversations that someone may have had across different social channels when they’re reporting an issue. It also gives the agent pop-up guidance that they can use to respond.

The benefit of this is making sure that there’s access to a knowledge base with guidance on how to interact in different situations.  For example, a vulnerable citizen may be too scared or unable to phone 999 or 911 or whatever, but might be able to send a message out using social media. The vision also allows milestones and alerts for urgent cases requiring immediate attention. It also aggregates to provide a case history or a 360 degree view of a citizen.

The stakes are higher here than those generally faced by the omni-channel. For an experience between police forces and citizens, this requires some big changes in the shift from traditional phone calls to social media conversations with priority key words. Four hundred emergency calls at the start of a shift will look very different in this new vision.

Anderson describes a police colleague experience that includes tagging to help them see the severity levels of a case at a glance from the agent handling the call. Handovers can be shared from shift to shift with full case history in one place:

Individuals already expect this service from their utilities company, their financial services company, their telco. This view of social media management and how that works into case management, creates a more holistic experience for individuals is going to be incredibly important.

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Written by Sharecaster

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