home Customer Experience, Digital Why all levels of government need to improve the citizen experience

Why all levels of government need to improve the citizen experience

Providing citizens with fast and efficient access to information and government services is seen as a priority for most federal and state departments as well as local governments across Australia. But most public sector organisations and government institutions, due to their size and complexity, face enormous challenges in improving the citizen experience.

Australians now expect the same level of service and quality of experiences as citizens as they do as customers. This is prompting governments to adopt citizen-centric service delivery models which will improve customers’ experience. Jamie Romanin, Director, Webex Customer Experience Practice APJC, Cisco, says, If the past two years have taught us anything in the multifaceted world of government, it’s that delivering services and information to constituents in a quick and efficient manner is imperative. In fact, it’s a game-changer – and can be lifesaving”.

Jamie Romanin, Director, Webex Customer Experience Practice APJC, Cisco

“Take the super speedy efforts of the ACT Government, which rolled out – in supersonic fashion – a vaccine hotline, capable of handling 10,000 calls per day for vaccine bookings. ACT Government serves thousands of citizens through health, education, environment, justice, and local government functions”, adds Romanin.

At all levels of government there has been a shift towards designing services to meet the needs and preferences of citizens. Kylie Green, Corporate Customer Experience Coordinator for Logan City Council, comments, “I think, in the last two years especially, people don’t see a difference between dealing with government and dealing with the private sector. In the old days, government had an inside-out approach where it focused on its own needs and requirements. That has shifted to an outside-in approach focused on the needs of the community. Government is making a huge shift.”

“One of our key core culture objectives is to be customer-centric. We’re a community service organisation, so for us, our community is key. It’s really important that our community is at the heart of all of our decisions.”

Each level of government has a unique range challenges and requirements they need to address, as Romanin highlights, “Local government, for example, is very customer-based; in fact, the interactions with customers are fairly unique and even cookie cutter. At every municipality level, there’s a universal need to engage with rate payers. But it’s a different kettle of fish when you go up the food chain – at the state and federal levels where it’s about the need to communicate, and bolster communications”.

Citizen satisfaction is down from 2020

According to the recent results from the 2022 Citizen Survey conducted by PWC, however, only 22% of citizens feel that Australian government institutions are meeting or exceeding expectations. This is down from 30% in June 2020. On a positive note, that survey highlights the fact that citizens knowing what they want presents a huge opportunity for governments to satisfy them.

Other findings from the PWC report include:

  • When it comes to accessing government services, 81% of citizens expect requests to be resolved in one interaction.
  • 85% of citizens say that speed, simplicity, convenience, transparency and security are important.
  • More people have interacted with a federal or state government service in the past three months than compared to June 2020. Citizens are not passive; they’ve shown they want to be actively involved.
  • Those who receive a response which outlines the next steps government will take also report significantly higher overall trust, demonstrating the importance not just of giving feedback, but of explaining the ‘why’ and ‘what next’ of a situation.

As Romanin points out, governments are making a huge effort to modernise their way of dealing with CX, but all three levels still have to grapple with:

  • aging on-premises infrastructure;
  • fragmented approaches to technology adoption within government
  • budgetary constraints; and
  • compliance issues.

“What’s more, the massive shift towards remote work amid the global pandemic has exacerbated the pain, putting pressure on already over-taxed IT infrastructures. What this highlights is there’s an urgency for government to bolster communications and stay connected with consumers like never before –  and to move fast to deliver great CX – and not only in times of crisis”, says Romanin.

Government departments and agencies are complex organisations. Delivering seamless customer experiences is made harder through multiple strategies, organisational silos, multiple touchpoints, and multiple programs. The PWC research highlights that disconnects and discrepancies are common due to multiple layers of complexity.

The benefits

Governments that are citizen-centric deliver better government outcomes by focusing on behaviours and deeply understanding the lives of citizens. Green says, “For us, it’s about how we can do things better for the community and creating value for the money residents spend on rates and local government services. By delivering more for the community we also encourage businesses to our local area, which creates jobs and commercial opportunities for residents”.

Agencies also enjoy better economic outcomes through the consideration of creating seamless experiences that are easy to navigate, thus removing time, effort, and errors of citizens. It means lower costs, greater productivity and improved employee experience.

Understanding the citizen

Government authorities across the globe have adopted digital innovation and customer experience to provide citizens with better experiences and access to services. To succeed and raise the level of trust, government organisations need to develop a profound understanding of citizens and develop methods that continuously identify what matters most to them.

Voice of the Customer (VoC) is a term that describes a customer’s feedback about their experiences with and expectations for an organisations’ products or services. Companies use VoC to create a consistent, ongoing customer feedback loop that provides the understanding and insights to adapt and respond to customer’s needs. The same methods and techniques can be used by governments to gain feedback and understanding of their citizens.

A VoC program tends to be the first step in designing a customer experience strategy, as Green advises, “The key thing to start with is a great Voice-of-Customer (VOC) program which can give you the data, the research, and the insights that enable you to understand customer preferences and needs”.

Logan City Council collects, analyses and acts on customer feedback like any private business. Logan says, “Like a lot of companies we track our CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) results via surveys when people contact the council whether that’s over the phone, online, or via social media. We want to know how easy it was to do business with council and that we’re delivering on our promises and commitment to the community. Every two years we conduct a resident’s survey. We are about consistency, regardless of channel, and that we’re transparent, open and honest in our communications.”

All levels of government in Australia are increasingly using CX to elevate the level of service they provide citizens.  It requires an intimate understanding of citizens, continuously identifying what matters to them most, and then adjusting service offerings based on their evolving needs. As the pace of private sector digital transformation is outpacing that of the public sector; the government must also accelerate to meet the constantly evolving needs of their citizens.

Mark Atterby

Mark Atterby has 18 years media, publishing and content marketing experience.