New research has revealed massive opportunity and significant risk for governments at all levels, and customer experience is the key to both (CX).

Salesforce and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) collaborated to examine the relationship between customer experience and trust, speaking with more than 1,600 individual and business representatives, as well as 20 public sector leaders, about the factors shaping CX when dealing with government. The resulting report, ‘The Trust Imperative: Why customer experience in government matters’, explores the role of trust in service improvement, and the opportunity for governments in Australia and New Zealand to transform service delivery. 


How do governments gain trust? 


Although trust is intangible, it need not be elusive – it’s gained and maintained by very straightforward, measurable actions. Just as any brand does, governments build trust by consistently meeting high expectations. 

Customers expect more of government services because they turn to them at some of the most sensitive points in their lives – births, marriages, health events. This – and the sensitivity of the information government departments gather during these interactions – gives rise to an expectation that governments should deliver services that make the customer feel understood, and that their information is being used in their best interests.

In fact, almost two-thirds of customers expect digital government services to perform at the standard of or better than leading private businesses.

Of those surveyed for The Trust Imperative, 85% said the quality of their customer experience can increase or decrease their trust in government. That increase or decrease can often be immediate and has enormous knock-on effects for the efficacy and reputation of government.


Closing the trust gap


The opportunity presented by the findings of this report underpin what we have termed the ‘virtuous circle’: when customers trust government they are more likely to feel comfortable sharing their sensitive information, enabling government to better personalise services that address that customer’s needs, thereby increasing the customer’s willingness to share more data. That information, if used optimally, also allows governments to develop better targeted, data-driven policies and services that help meet the needs of the communities they serve and the expectations of the public.

However, the opposite is also true. A poor experience with government creates a vicious circle of mistrust, making it harder for government to gain the insights needed to meet customer expectations. 

The good news for governments: while there is clearly work to do in meeting customer expectations, the gap is not the whole picture. We’ve seen governments across the nation take steps towards reimagining their customer experience. 

Creating those positive experiences is not just about apps and AI. It’s about omnichannel service delivery that ensures everybody in every demographic is able to have what they define as a positive experience, whether that’s a face-to-face meeting in an office or shopfront, or a few taps on a smartphone. Service NSW is now one of the benchmarks, delivering a one-stop shop for customers seeking to engage with more than 35 government agencies.


Communicating the benefit of data sharing


Given the opportunity good data provides, it’s never been more important for governments to inform the community, with transparency and clarity, on how customer data is protected and used to the public’s benefit. Otherwise people will not share data, and the gap between service delivery quality and customer expectation will widen. 

Only 29% of Australians and 22% of New Zealanders believe the government does a good job of communicating the benefits of data sharing, and this lack of transparency has translated into a significant cohort of the ANZ population being concerned about how governments use data. Not only are they concerned their personal data will be used without their consent, 40% are worried governments will use their data in a way that’s not in their best interest. 


Three-step government transformation


The transformation to a customer-centric, data-driven government of the future starts with three fundamental steps that institutionalise a shift in thinking about the business of government. 

 

1. Unlock talent

Government – federal, state or local – is made up of people who have joined the public service to improve their communities. Successful, customer-centric transformation will require these invaluable human resources to be enabled with new skills like change management and digital capabilities, alongside the traditional skill sets typically expected in the public service.

Importantly, this enablement will also allow governments to better engage their employees through closer alignment with their core purpose. The link between clear organisational purpose and long-term performance has been well canvassed. In this instance, the reward of better and more impactful service delivery will help drive innovative alignment of back-end policies and processes. 

 

2. Realign structures and processes to reflect a new culture

Realignment of structures and processes to put the customer first will require a shift in internal metrics, KPIs, and incentive and empowerment structures, including a reexamination of which roles shape policies and process, and to what extent. Often, the people facing customers on a day-to-day basis are not involved in policy and service-delivery formulation but have critical insights into what works and what needs improvement from both the customer and employee perspective.

Teaming and transforming on this scale will also require a rethink of how to deliver what the customer expects and how that expectation is being formed. Closer consultation and collaboration with the private sector will optimise governments’ ability to get to the answer more efficiently and effectively. 

Around the world, the greatest outcomes are achieved when the talents of government and the private sector combine. A government agency can’t be expected to have all the necessary resources, skills and capabilities to deliver new, cutting-edge policies and services, just as a company working in isolation couldn’t. Success is best supported when the right balance is struck between internal and external resourcing and collaboration, united around a common purpose.

 

3. Build the technology and digital infrastructure to support ongoing innovation

Technology that is adaptable, scalable and able to integrate with legacy technology is fundamental to the success of any transformation initiative. It will also allow government agencies the freedom to test ideas and processes, iterate and deploy quickly. 

What will success look like? It will be measured in everyday interactions, whether lodging a tax return or applying for a government grant. Better, more impactful policies supported by seamless and personalised customer service, with faster development times (higher speed-to-value) represent better value for the taxpayer and better government.

 

Find out what we learnt from speaking with more than 1,600 government customers, both individuals and business representatives, in Australia and New Zealand. Download the full report: ‘The Trust Imperative: Why customer experience in government matters’

 

Gisele Kapterian is Director, Public Sector Strategy APAC, at Salesforce.