Building good Customer Experience for public sector services

Customer Experience (CX) is a hot topic in public service design and delivery, and the Covid crisis has only increased attention on user-centric design. But behind the hype, are public sector organisations really getting to grips with CX in a meaningful way, or still experimenting with pilot projects that aren’t yet delivering wider impact?

Forrester’s Consulting Director, David Wheable, joined our GM for Government, David Wilde, for an episode of the GovX Show to unpack the reality of public sector CX. These show notes share the key takeaways that government and healthcare bodies should be considering when they embark on CX projects. You can watch the full episode HERE.

Definitions of CX

It’s important to understand and factor in ‘the three Es’ of CX: Ease, Effectiveness and Emotion. 

Research suggests that Emotions is the strongest determinant of experience. Good customer experience is a key driver of enrichment, loyalty and advocacy. In the government context, good CX plays out in differently via: 

  • Compliance - seeing high levels of compliance or uptake with a service or requirements 

  • Expansion - people will interact with public agencies when they don’t have to

  • Advocacy - they’ll share their positive experience with others

Fundamental principles of CX in the public sector 

Getting things right first time - asking people to repeat an activity to complete the service isn’t unacceptable.

Once and done - a single location or interaction channel are needed, rather than citizens being bounced around different departments or virtual and physical interfaces to complete that action.

CX leads, everything else follows

Put CX at the heart of the service design, and let other tools and techniques like Agile and DevOps support that vision. 

Technology has shifted the balance of power to consumers and citizens. The old structures allowed organisations to define how things worked, dictating where and how they delivered services, so citizens had to visit offices and fill in forms.

Technology means the customer can now decide when they want to interact. Service design is now about mapping the customer journey, identifying pain points and where negative emotions might arise. Agile and DevOps play a supporting role in an iterative design approach to identify and fix those issues.

Who owns CX in public sector organisations?

Historically, the public sector hasn’t identified who should own the complete customer journey, with CX activities being bolted on to the wider programme of digitalisation. This narrow view means the organisation fails to identify friction or hand-offs in the customer’s experience.

There are valuable lessons to learn from the banking sector, which moved successfully towards CX as a key part of its service, unlocking a raft of new innovative approaches. Customer service in the public sector remains too much about call centres and delivery channels.

The CX maturity scale

In its early stages, there's often too much emphasis on tactical elements like fixing specific pain points - there’s no overarching CX vision. Technical people will focus on the Ease and Effectiveness elements of the Three Es, and avoid thinking about the emotional piece. 

Orgnisations that successfully move through the stages of CX maturity tend to start with basic processes like journey mapping, but then realise that to take the next step, they need to design a vision of what the experience should be, rather than just fixing problems.

They also drive awareness and understanding of the CX vision across the organisation, so that the people delivering services understand the end goals and outcomes they’re enabling.

Getting started on CX

Awareness is also a significant driver of progress when organisations set out on their CX journey. Evidence from the private sector is that companies that have good CX outperform those with bad CX - the financial results support that case.

In the public sector, the compliance level acts in a similar way - higher levels of compliance help to remove overheads for remedial work. Compare the impact of a population that submits tax returns on time and doesn’t need chasing by a weighty admin apparatus.

Key takeaways: The foundations of success

  • Fix the obvious pain points first.

  • Use that discovery process to understand the complete citizen journey.

  • Identify the negative emotions and where they occur in the process.

  • Build out a vision of the destination - what do you want the CX to be?

  • Use all the tools at your disposal - ethnographic research, customer data etc.

  • Make decisions based on the citizens’ preferences - not your own.

  • Think in straight lines: understand the user’s starting point, where they want to get to, and make the line to reach it as short and direct as possible.

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