Despite massive investments, global e-government initiatives are still hard-pressed to meet citizens' growing expectations for better customer service, and government officials believe they are approaching the saturation point for online services.
Yet such fears fail to recognize the potential for incremental improvements, according to Accenture's Group Chief Executive - Government Operating Group Martin Cole.
Accenture's 2005 "Leadership in Customer Service: New Expectations, New Experiences," study surveyed 9000 adults in 22 countries to find all countries experienced a drop from previous years' overall e-government maturity scores, based solely on evaluations of countries' e-government programs. Canada received top billing out of the 22 countries surveyed in maturity for the fifth year in a row, followed by the United States, Denmark, Singapore and then Australia.
But Accenture was at pains to point out that leadership in this case shouldn't necessarily be taken to mean superlative performance, and that in the bigger picture, even the world leaders have clear room for improvement.
"Those countries that fared worse this year tended to be those with an emphasis on solely the e-government aspects of their service delivery programs. A look at e-government programs across the globe shows that continued incremental improvements in this area are unlikely to yield significant boosts to maturity. To advance now, governments will need to focus on a much broader vision," the report warns.
Governments average a doleful 39 percent on measures of how well they are delivering services across multiple channels, with only Canada scoring more than 50 percent. Accenture says it expected this "less-than-stellar showing", having put countries through a more rigorous scrutiny of their practices beyond e-government than ever before. It also sees this as a more accurate picture of the amount of improvement countries need to make in terms of delivering service that leads to outcomes that matter for their stakeholders.
"That leaves a lot of room for improvement," says Cole says, pointing out that while most governments have put what they can online, far fewer are actually redesigning how they deliver services to meet the more sophisticated needs of customers.
This year Accenture decided to extend its survey beyond e-government, attempting to measure each country's leadership in delivering true customer services.
"This year's research shows that governments cannot afford to invest all of their effort and resources in developing the online channel alone to keep pace with citizens demands," Cole says. "The entire government organization must become focused on delivering services to citizens that are tailored to their needs and circumstances, and are coordinated across the various channels of interaction."
Accenture says while the overall maturity rankings suggest no government has evolved to a full manifestation of leadership in customer service, there are a number of new and ambitious initiatives that will go a long way toward transforming customer service in governments around the globe.
"Some breakthrough initiatives that will move governments in this direction already have emerged. Starting with their service delivery strategies, a number of countries this year are beginning to take a new approach that should position them well for future leadership in customer service."
The report cites the Australian Government's Business Entry Point Transaction Manager, or BEP Transaction Manager (www.business.gov.au) as an example of how some governments have acted as a single entity to ensure the right information is available to their customers at the right time.
The report describes BRP as "a striking example of citizen centered, proactive, cross-governmental service."
It notes that by helping businesses find, manage and complete government forms and transactions online without having to understand how government organizations or individual agencies work, the BEP Transaction Manager dramatically improves businesses' ability to navigate the maze of government structure.
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