India is currently at a stage of change. With the transfer of leadership and the new government in place, change is a force very much eminent...
India is currently at a stage of change. With the transfer of leadership and the new government in place, change is a force very much eminent in the country. With this, comes a growing sense of expectation which the public has from the government and government agencies. Citizens expect efficient delivery of services with high level of execution and the government is accountable for ensuring the same.
Technological advances such as smartphones and apps have opened new frontiers of convenience, speed, and transparency for privately owned companies. At the same time, tightening government budgets are making it difficult for the public sector to deliver services of a similar high quality. With consumer expectations only increasing, it is no surprise that interactions with government agencies frustrate and disappoint many citizens. This is summed up in a report by international research agency, Forrester which states that federal agencies are failing the administration’s mandate to offer customer experiences that match the best of the private sector.
However when we sought to find out exactly why, it is interesting to note that the issues that frustrate citizens are solvable, and the frustrations mostly revolve around the way services are provided rather than the services themselves. In fact governments can significantly improve the service experience while lowering costs and increasing employee engagement and satisfaction. Basically, whether it is in the government or the private sector—a great citizen/customer experience means the same thing.
Citizens want to interact with governments and public sector agencies in the same way that they interact with their cell phone providers or insurance carriers or e-commerce portals. They want to find the information they need at any time, take care of several issues on their own or know that someone will be there to answer a question—be it via live chat or phone. Citizens want you to know them, to understand what they are trying to accomplish and the journey they’re on. They want to be able to complain or make suggestions, be it to a contact centre agent or through social media and they expect a quick turn around and an action plan.
In today’s digital world, it is easy to switch from one provider to another. Companies can no longer count solely on brand loyalty. Customers are more likely to stay with you if they have an easy and pleasurable experience with you during a transaction. In the private sector, companies talk about customer loyalty and retention. Customer engagement improvements such as creating a robust website so customers can quickly find answers or integrating backoffice systems so agents have all the data they need on a single screen to most effectively serve customers—have been undertaken to not only improve the customer service experience but also to keep them brand-loyal.
While government agencies do not talk about customer loyalty per se, they do talk about specific aspects of loyalty such as compliance (following the agency’s directives or advice); Expansion (engaging with the agency even when it is not required and advocacy (saying positive things about the agency to other people).
To fully understand these interactions, governments and public sector agencies must measure them in some meaningful way. In this context, certain specific trends emerged with respect to government citizen experience which as follows: speed, simplicity, and efficiency make citizens happier; satisfaction is often lower for more essential services; people who don’t use a service are often more skeptical about its quality; citizens are less satisfied with government services than with private-sector services and most citizens prefer to interact with government online.
The wide plethora of analytical solutions available today can help governments learn about citizens and proactively engage them on their preferred channels. Gathering feedback from citizens proactively makes them feel listened to and that their opinions truly matter, empowering citizens to further engage with governments.
In the private sector, engaged customers help increase sales, provide more positive feedback and improve brand recognition. In government services , engaged citizens help improve the overall health of neighbourhoods and cities, create more awareness —potentially offering a better quality of life for all.
Those are admirable goals and are completely worth the investment. And, if governments and public sector organisations continue to invest in the right customer experience solutions and tools—perhaps they will soon match the private sector service levels.
The writer is managing director, Enterprise Intelligence Solutions, Verint Systems India