Unlocking the potential of government services through technology

Consumers have called out the public sector as one of the worst performing industries when it comes to customer experience (CX), writes Simon Bowker.

Simon Bowker

The pandemic shifted us all online, whether we wanted to or not. This was especially true for the public sector, which was forced to shift more than most industries as residents were required to interact with governments digitally to receive the health and financial support that was made available.

Thankfully, we’ve moved on a long way since the pandemic. Yet, according to our research, Australian government services have not maintained their fast and responsive digital delivery. Consumers called out the public sector as one of the worst performing industries when it comes to customer experience (CX).

So, what can be done by governments to improve CX outcomes for residents? Demands for services are only increasing, and many are embracing digital technology to scale services, cut waiting times, and reduce costs, which promises to transform citizen experiences.

Connecting the disconnected

One unique challenge the public sector faces is the need to provide for everyone. How can it design experiences that provide for people who are connected and comfortable with technology at the same time as those who are not, who don’t have the right devices and connections?

A recent EY report found only half of people globally felt public services effectively used technology to respond to the pandemic. It also found one third of people wanted governments to use more digital technologies for service provision.

In Australia, not all residents have the same access to technology or internet connections – especially people living in remote and rural areas. Similarly, not all taxpayers are comfortable getting online to access services. This presents a real danger that some Australians could be left behind, which is why the EY report found there’s a lot of enthusiasm for government programs designed to bridge the technology and connectivity gap.

Listening is key

As governments undergo their digital transformation journey, it’s critical for agencies and departments to listen to what taxpayers are saying and then incorporate this feedback into their service offerings.

According to outgoing NSW Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government, Victor Dominello, digital transformation is only successful if it provides a better experience than what came before. And the only way to know if the transformation is successful is by getting feedback.

Speaking at ServiceNow’s Knowledge 2022 conference, Minister Dominello said traditionally governments didn’t want to know what people think. “But you can’t elevate the citizen experience unless you understand it,” he said. “Now we’re actively inviting and providing easy channels to capture feedback. It’s a massive culture shift.”

Digital identity

Beyond seeking feedback, there are several ways governments can elevate customer experience, like introducing a digital ID to validate residents, so they don’t need to constantly repeat themselves or login in multiple times, which ServiceNow’s research identified as a key frustration with bad service.

Australia’s federal government has made some progress on this front, with its myGov portal for multiple services, but this is still limited to a handful of departments. Many state and local governments vary in their digital maturity.

For most Australians, Service Now’s Customer Care report revealed that speed is the most important factor to good service. It also identified smart portals and mobile apps as being critical to quick customer experience, yet these tools for engagement are still rare in the public sector. When smart portals have been introduced, like at the Department of Home Affairs as a way of managing returning citizens during the pandemic, it cleared a backlog, sped up manual processing, and removed the risk of human error.

A lack of data sharing across multiple systems is another concern consumers identified as driving poor service. Nearly half of customers (44 per cent) believe that a lack of ownership between different departments was a key reason for bad service. Additionally, 41 per cent believe that inefficient communication within an organisation is the reason for poor experiences.

By connecting teams with technology, data sharing allows government to have a 360-degree view of the citizen experience and provide faster services, arranged around an individual’s needs and life experience.

What does the future look like?

If a government is going to have a comprehensive view of its population to provide effective digital services, it needs to capture data from multiple sources, and make these available to all services that require it. One example is NSW Health’s IT Platform, HOPE, that was co-designed with consumers, clinicians, and managers across NSW in partnership with the ACI, eHealth NSW and the NSW Ministry of Health.

The system allows both consumers and clinicians to access real-time information, to help understand what matters to patients and support shared decision making about care, treatment, and health interventions. It’s making services faster, more collaborative, and responsive to individual needs. It can also take in data from both digital and analogue inputs, so that anyone – whatever their digital capabilities – can benefit from the system.

Improving customer experience for taxpayers isn’t the work of a moment. But by listening, incorporating feedback, and creating easy to access and compelling, linked, digital services, governments can create a seamless experience – and one where no one is left behind.

Simon Bowker is AVP & Head of Customer Workflow Solutions (Asia Pacific & Japan) at ServiceNow

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