Taking customer-centric government one step further

One of the most impactful ways all levels of government can increase trust and advance equity is by being able to understand and prioritise everyone’s experience with the services and support they are using, writes Phillip Bland.

Phillip Bland

Across Australia, the customer experiences delivered by government agencies are having a direct impact on people’s behaviours, preferences, and even how they vote. For example, 53% of respondents to a recent local study said their experience with government affects how they vote, and 66% said it influenced their decision to get a COVID vaccine.

A new approach to engagement

Experience matters. And encouragingly, federal, state, and local government agencies are doubling down on their efforts to deliver customer-centric services. For these changes to be successful however, it’s critical for agencies to rethink how they engage and seek input from their communities.

This means going further than the annual customer or post-transaction survey to instead capture ongoing feedback throughout different stages of the customer journey, while also making it easy and simple for people to share their thoughts. Similarly, government agencies need to capture more regular feedback from their employees who are responsible for building and delivering the services.

The result of this shift in the ways government agencies engage with their customers and employees will be an in-depth, real-time understanding of what is and isn’t working in service delivery. This level of insight is going to be critical for delivering truly customer-centric services.

Knowing where and how to start

From my conversations with government agencies – including many local teams – I know this shift can at first seem daunting. Teams will often say they lack practice and expertise in creating proper customer engagements, they don’t have the dedicated resources or budget, or struggle to get representative participation from their communities.

The most important step to overcoming these challenges is knowing where to start. Because despite the challenges faced, all agencies are looking to expand community engagement. And getting equipped with the right support, tools, and approach will go a long way.

The four capabilities to prioritise for customer-centric governments

Prioritising these four capabilities in the technology and partners government agencies choose to help deliver customer-centric services is critical:

  1. Capturing and remembering feedback at key moments in the customer journey – When a customer provides feedback at the end of the entire engagement or once a year, it only tells a small part of their experience at a set moment in time, and traditionally the insights aren’t made available for weeks. By listening at multiple stages of the interaction, agencies get a more granular understanding of the experience delivered – which helps to identify gaps in the overall service delivery. Equipped with this understanding, agencies can make targeted improvements. To elevate the experience further, government agencies can make it easier for customers by ensuring they are not asked to enter the same personal information in every interaction.

A leading state government department rapidly deployed a solution during natural disasters allowing it to capture insights from customers requiring support. Responses were instantly shared with the relevant authorities for decision making and investment on support programs. This approach ensured issues could be resolved in a timely and meaningful way, with minimal disruption and effort required from the customer.

  1. Equipping decision makers with easy-to-understand, actionable insights – A critical component to delivering a great customer experience is the speed and relevance at which issues are addressed. This means insights need to be made available to leaders at multiple levels to view, understand, and action in real-time.

By providing ownership of insights to leaders in operational channels they are empowered to act with empathy on the voice of many. For example, visual dashboards that display feedback in real-time can help leaders easily understand what’s going on, while pre-built integrations between the insights platform and other business applications can automatically trigger action on responses requiring immediate attention.

The City of Adelaide uses dashboards to present insights back to leaders across the Council, which allows for easy identification of critical aspects impacting customers, and highlights excellent service delivery for positive recognition. These insights have helped the Council prioritise the services it makes available online, and reduces the customer effort required to complete specific engagements.

  1. Enabling continuous innovation by sharing learnings across the department – The customer insights collected must be invested back into the department, and made freely available for individual teams to access and review. This approach ensures everyone benefits from the feedback shared, which can help guide and inform other projects underway, optimises funding, and creates faster and more effective outcomes for local communities.

For instance, an Australian state government department responsible for tourism collects ongoing feedback from customers visiting its network of entertainment precincts. These insights are securely made available to its onsite partners, which in turn equips them with valuable feedback to improve the experiences they deliver.

  1. Empowering employees to deliver a great customer experience – The best customer experiences are often delivered by happy, engaged, and enabled employees. As part of the shift toward offering customer-centric services, governments must also concentrate on the engagement and satisfaction of their teams, and by enabling them to focus on delivering excellent services. Simultaneously, at a time when the types of skills and roles needed in government are changing – such as a greater need for digital talent – the insights can help create recruitment pathways into government for the best talent.

One of the country’s leading state transport agencies regularly captures feedback from its teams and across key moments in the employee journey to identify what it can do to improve the employee experience. These insights – which are combined with an all of government annual engagement survey – helps the government agency understand what its teams need to be successful in their role.

Cultivating trust through empathy

As government agencies continue on their journey to deliver customer-centric services, it’s critical they take steps to deeply understand the needs of the customers and employees they serve. Equipped with the right capabilities and insights, government agencies can tune into the real needs of their communities, test programs with the people impacted most, deliver constant support to people in need, improve operational efficiencies and excellence, attract, retain and enable talent – and ultimately cultivate trust from the people they serve.

*Phillip Bland is Principal Industry Advisor Public Sector Solution Strategy ANZ with Qualtrics

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