Reinventing Government Services With a Citizen-First Approach

By Kirsten Oelrich 4 min read

Governments are often criticized for neglecting citizens. For years, flawed policies and lack of public welfare have been the major talking points for decision makers. But the challenges of today’s digital world are more complex. Traditional definitions of policymaking have changed and governments must be digitally ready to respond to a new generation of hyper-connected citizens.

Today, effective governance is not just defined by the standards of public services but also by the way governments interact with citizens. With the rising adoption of digital technologies, governments are faced with increasing pressure to provide more customer – centric services. As they struggle to balance priorities of governance and service delivery, public sector organizations must prepare to transform for a digitally evolving world.

The challenge is significant – consumer surveys indicate that satisfaction with government services has fallen to an eight-year low. Across the world, citizens are dissatisfied and the trust in governments is deteriorating. Recent Gallup polls revealed that Americans continue to name dissatisfaction with government as the nation’s second most – important problem, after the economy.

The shift to digital models of governance is not just an option anymore. It’s an imperative.

Government officials acknowledge the problem. In a digital government survey of state officials, it was found that 73 percent believed their organization’s digital capabilities were behind those in the private sector. In another recent survey, state IT personnel and decision makers identified healthcare, employment, public safety, licensing, renewals, and permitting as the most critical areas needing better digital capabilities.

It’s time to introspect. Here are 3 key questions you must ask before you begin your digital transformation journey:

1. Are you gauging citizen satisfaction?

The first step to begin a digital transformation journey is to find out where you currently stand. Do you understand your citizens’ priorities? Do you know where your service delivery is lacking? These are key questions you must seek to answer. Here’s how you can go about it:

  • Ask questions to gather insights, not just to seek answers

Direct questions will usually lead to impulse – driven answers which may or may not be accurate. Instead of asking citizens pointed questions about which areas of service delivery are most lacking (e.g. response time or the helpfulness of the service representative), ask them to rate each service (for example, the process of applying for a passport). This would help you in gathering deep insights about user experience and key priorities.

  • Identify the breaking points before the citizens do it

It’s imperative to have realistic goals when striving for a balance between delivering high – quality, responsive services and managing resources effectively. Since zero wait times and one-click transactions are difficult to achieve, it is important to leverage citizen satisfaction metrics and find the sweet spot i.e. acceptable service levels. Several public-sector organizations have already had success with this method of analysis.

2. Are you addressing the entire citizen journey?

Government leaders must adopt a holistic methodology rather than focusing on fragmented touch points when looking to improve visitor experience. This means considering the entire citizen journey, from the very first interaction until the task is completed. According to a report, government organizations that adeptly manage end-to-end customer journeys report greater levels of citizen satisfaction. Here’s how you should proceed with this approach:

  • Not every journey is important. Not every transaction is critical.

It’s important to identify the journeys that matter most to citizens. Effective resource utilization is a strategic imperative and government leaders must focus improvement initiatives on issues that matter most to citizens. This can be done through a number of ways such as segmenting customers by need or identifying areas with the lowest satisfaction levels.

  • Map the internal processes with the critical journeys

Identifying the critical journeys alone will not help. In order to develop actionable insights, government leaders must link citizen journeys to the internal organizational processes that shape them. One of the most important aspects of effective journey mapping is defining the major operational activities involved at each step.

3. Do you have a long-term plan?

The success of any transformation program hinges on the capabilities available. To effectively drive citizen-satisfaction transformations, government leaders must use a citizen-centric approach to measure and manage performance so they can continue to drive and sustain enhancements.

  • Measuring and managing performance

Evaluating and improving customer journeys is a cumbersome task and involves constant fine-tuning of performance metrics and analytics. This means not just capturing high – level citizen satisfaction in each journey but also their satisfaction with individual factors that affect satisfaction along the way. For further analysis, these metrics can then be inserted into a performance management tool.

  • Implementing the right governance mechanism

Even though governance models for citizen transformation initiatives can take different forms, they have a few common elements. The most important aspect is that they don’t just collect citizen feedback, they also aggregate and analyze this information. Second, effective governance models define clear accountability across each function that is involved. This is particularly important since a single citizen journey may require multiple handoffs among departments or agencies. Finally, citizen transformation governance models draw a clear line between governance policy and operations. While policy governance focuses on high-level metrics, operational governance tracks citizen satisfaction and metrics at the channel and journey levels.

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Kirsten Oelrich

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Kirsten Oelrich