The service expectations of today’s connected citizens are vastly different to a decade ago. The Australian Government needs to respond to this service challenge by thinking of citizens as customers, and appointing a Chief Customer Officer.

Meeting the expectations of the connected citizen


The penetration of digital technologies has created a connected world where consumers expect a smarter brand of customer service. These service demands are creating new business models and upending industries. In the private sector, we’re already seeing super-connected, hyper-informed consumers vote with their feet if the service they receive doesn’t meet expectations. Connected customers are challenging organisations to be better and, as citizens, they’re putting pressure on government agencies to do the same.

Today’s technology-enlightened constituents don't want to tell five different government agencies they’ve changed their address. Likewise, they don’t want to be told how they’ll receive a service. Ultimately, they want a frictionless, connected service experience, and one that’s on their terms.

In order for the Australian Government to keep pace with the disrupted world around them, it needs to adopt the same obsession with the customer that’s becoming fundamental to service models in the private sector.

The role of the Chief Customer Officer


The Chief Customer Officer (CCO) is central to fulfilling customer-centric business models, and they’re on the rise in organisations right around the world and in many of Australia’s largest organisations – including Australia Post and Telstra. The mandate of the CCO is to champion the interests of the customer, challenging businesses to refocus its people, processes, technologies, policies and data on improving the customer experience.

And these are C-Suite roles. When a former New South Wales Premier is made Chief Customer Officer of NAB, we see the importance and authority that organisations are giving to the internal voice of the customer.

How NSW State Government is turning citizens into customers


The NSW State Government sees this importance as well. It is already reinventing the way it delivers service, adamant it wants to treat all citizens as customers. Critical to achieving this mandate was the creation and appointment of a Commissioner for Customer Service in 2012. Michael Pratt moved  from the private sector to fill the position.  

When NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian recently announced that Pratt would be moving to head NSW Treasury, she cited his history as an “outcomes and customer focused” Customer Service Commissioner who has put “people at the heart of service delivery”.

When Pratt started, five years ago, the NSW Government had 380 shopfronts, 30 contact centres, more than 8000 phone numbers and 900 websites. In Pratt’s own words, contacting government was a “nightmare”. Since then, he’s worked across multiple agencies, driving major improvement in the delivery, consolidation and modernisation of services, with the forward-thinking goal of re-imagining the constituent relationship.

The benefits of having an internal customer advocate


According to an article from The Guardian, the average Centrelink customer is on hold for 15 minutes before a service agent handles their enquiry, and only half of all customers record satisfactory perceptions of Centrelink. Medicare’s average call wait time is seven minutes, but the Australian Taxation Office’s only two minutes. Imagine running a business that recorded such numbers and discrepancies.

To be truly customer-centric and meet the expectations of the connected citizen, the Federal Government needs a CCO – a citizen advocate who can help shift thinking and attitudes, so that citizens are thought of as customers and services are built with those customers’ needs at the heart. Rather than building a service and providing it to the citizen, which is what’s historically been done.

In the US, we’re seeing multiple Federal Government agencies take heed of the private sector’s evolving customer engagement strategies, appointing CCOs to improve citizen services. It would be beneficial for Australia to follow suit.

There’s a desire by Federal Government to be more agile and innovative – we can see this from the newly-formed Digital Transformation Agency. The technology is available to do this, it’s just a matter of going through the transformation process, designing online services to be simpler, clearer and faster for users. Having a dedicated CCO with horizontal responsibility across numerous agencies, establishing a consistent, seamless and customer-centric service standard that citizens have come to expect, would aid this process no end.

Are you doing everything you can to stay ahead of changing customer expectations? Download the State of the Connected Customer ebook to find out.

Sassoon Grigorian is Head of Public Policy, ANZ & SE Asia. Read more from Sassoon Grigorian.