Government needs a more commercial mindset on customer service

Written by Gavin Mee on 4 October 2017 in Opinion
Opinion

Gavin Mee of Salesforce argues that government needs to think more like the private sector in its approach to service delivery

 

The public sector has the same imperative as the commercial world to build engagement with users, claims Gavin Mee of Salesforce

Ask most consumers about their experiences of interacting with public-sector organisations and you’ll most likely hear ‘being put on hold for ages’, ‘filling out endless forms, or even ‘miles behind most companies’. The common perception is that the private sector delivers better services, digitally, compared to the public sector. 

However, the government is addressing this pressing issue. One example is the GDS advisory board, and its work to bring the 2021 National Census online and make 90% of passport applications digital by 2020. 

Think like the private sector
So, is it a PR problem, or a problem that’s really there? I think it’s a cultural shift that’s needed. Clearly progress is being made on this issue, but it’s not happening fast enough. In order to really make a difference to citizen engagement, the public sector needs to adopt a much more commercial mindset. This starts with thinking – and working – more like innovative, commercial enterprises. 

Fundamental to this shift is understanding the importance of customer satisfaction in driving loyalty. For example, if your weekly home grocery delivery is consistently inaccurate or late you’re likely to look at another supermarket. You may even use social streams to vent your disappointment. However, if you’re impressed with the level of service, even receiving personalised recommendations, the chances are you’ll share that with your friends and beyond. 


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It’s true the public sector doesn’t have competitors in the same way as the private sector, but what that simply means is that the implications of dissatisfaction are different. The need to build regular engagement remains the same for both employees and citizens. When citizens feel consistently let down by their engagements with public sector offices, they may choose to just not bother. If this happens, we’re back to square one with long waiting times on the phone or in person. 

Instead, I would encourage the public sector to strive to deliver an easy and efficient experience for their ‘customers’, and ensure citizens can easily interact with public sector bodies when and how they prefer.  For instance, even though we order pizza through many different channels – by app, on the phone, or in the shop – the end product is the same. I’m not saying government services are just like pizza, but I do believe we should be able to access public services in the way that best suits us. 

I believe that by giving citizens the options and flexibility to engage in the way that they want, engagement will grow, which will, in turn, improve employee engagement too. Ultimately, the UK public sector plays an integral role in upholding its citizens’ standards of living, and digital services are at the heart of this interaction. 

The future is bright, the future is digital
As the public sector continues to embrace and understand ways to deliver modern customer engagement, it must take a bold leap towards its digitally enabled future. Citizens want to engage with their government in an easy, efficient, and cost-effective way – and they want this now.  In today’s digital world this means offering mobile-first, online services, that can work alongside traditional customer service channels, in a consistent, secure way.

Citizens are customers, and they should expect good service when they want it – and from any channel in which they choose to interact. The future is now, and the public-sector culture shift needs to happen now to create a truly engaged citizen. 

 

 

About the author

Gavin Mee is head of UK at Salesforce 

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