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Australian Government Falling Behind in Delivery of Customer Services

Australian Government Falling Behind in Delivery of Customer Services

Once they were top performers, praised for their strong visions of value-led, citizen-centric services, but somehow Australia, Canada, France, the United Kingdom and the United States have all let service flag in the eyes of their citizens

Once they were top performers, praised for their strong visions of value-led, citizen-centric services, but somehow Australia, Canada, France, the United Kingdom and the United States have all let service flag in the eyes of their citizens.

In some of the strongest performing countries from past reports, including Australia, citizens are still generally satisfied, but don't believe service has improved in comparison to three years ago

Now Accenture is warning those nations against losing momentum, concerned they may be becoming stymied by their own success and tempted to dawdle on transitioning from the winning recipes of the past.

"The work ahead is not easy. Nor will it have the immediate and visceral appeal of the high-profile work governments have done on their front-end service structures in the recent past. Nevertheless, it is work that can no longer be pushed to the bottom of the customer service agenda. Citizens impatiently await the results," a new Accenture report warns.

The report, Leadership in Customer Service: Delivering on the Promise, the eighth in an annual series examining the customer-service challenges, maturity and practices of governments around the world, ranks 22 governments based on an assessment of their customer-service programs, but this time with a major enhancement.

For the first time, the rankings incorporate direct citizen feedback on quality of government service delivery, based on criteria like the user-friendliness of customer-service channels, the breadth and depth of online services accessed by citizens, and overall citizen satisfaction ratings.

And on this measure, governments that used to pride themselves on leadership are looking somewhat less flash. Accenture now considers the governments of Singapore (scoring 89 per cent on customer maturity ranking) and Canada (88 per cent) — both with strong and compelling visions of value-led, citizen-centric service — as doing the best job of delivering on the promise of customer service. The United States has fallen back to the second tier (79 per cent), where it joins Denmark (79 per cent), and Sweden (74 per cent), who rose over their previous rankings.

While the introduction of citizen survey responses make comparisons with past years difficult, Australia's ranking looks far less impressive this year, on just 59 per cent, where it is easily pipped by Norway, (64 per cent), and Finland (62 per cent).

In some of the strongest performing countries from past reports, including Australia, Canada, France, the United Kingdom and the United States, citizens are still generally satisfied, but don't believe service has improved in comparison to three years ago, the report finds.

"What will it take to move citizens beyond complacency in these countries? What will it take to reverse citizen disenchantment, or to maintain the positive momentum in others? In short, what will it take for governments to continue to build the trust with their citizens?

"It will take putting a robust vision of customer service into action. Governments have promised the world to citizens. They have talked about removing organizational boundaries and providing highly tailored service based on a deep understanding of who their citizens are — as individuals and as members of communities. In the end, however, citizens will judge their governments by their actions rather than their promises. And governments still have much work to do to be able to keep their word."

The report also concludes combining excellent front-end customer service with a robust technology infrastructure and highly trained workforce is what allows leading governments to deliver better service to citizens.

"Our report found that while many countries have embraced new technologies — especially the Internet — to reach citizens, their back-end infrastructures have often failed to keep pace. The most innovative customer-service platforms are the most holistic in tying together the front-end promise with back-end delivery excellence," Roberts said.

This holistic approach underlies the four key findings in Delivering on the Promise derived from in-depth surveys and research of government customer service. The key findings include:

Know the customer's needs. Innovative governments are moving beyond basic demographic categories and looking at customers as groups based on characteristics that include their values, needs and intentions. For example, the Central Provident Fund in Singapore wanted to educate young people about the benefits of retirement savings. The Fund took what they knew of their targets' attitudes and behaviours and combined that with effective marketing techniques garnered from the private sector to provide a truly novel educational experience that includes an online game and prizes. The game is designed to encourage good savings and investment habits, as well as long-term financial planning.

Make the connections. Organizations whose back-office infrastructures are not aligned to fulfil their citizen-service promises create a credibility and delivery gap. While governments understand that their visions of customer service will evolve over time, they are now focusing more attention on making their existing visions operational through infrastructure improvements. Spain is becoming a model for other European countries in this regard, creating a national platform for information sharing and communication through the development of a common infrastructure that links all the state administrations with regional governments.

Align your people. Developing the best, most well-equipped front-line workforce is critical to customer-service success because those employees can have the biggest impact. Innovative governments are attacking this issue in one of two ways: ramping up their workforces through extensive training and recruitment, or opting for smaller numbers of highly engaged people. Canada's approach to managing its workforce is particularly effective, with a robust strategy for workforce transformation called PS Renewal in which service transformation and public service renewal initiatives are tightly coupled.

Don't do it alone. Governments' relationships with citizens, businesses and non-governmental organizations are evolving into a complex ecosystem in which each of the various stakeholders takes on a share of the responsibility for developing and delivering value-led services. This evolution is leading to the next generation of highly integrated customer service

"This is a call to action for governments. We found that the four pillars of customer service are related to citizens' overall satisfaction with a correlation of .57. In other words, a significant aspect of governments' relationships with citizens is directly under their own control: how they provide services," the report says.

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