Customer experience has become the arena in which twenty-first century organisations are competing, structuring themselves and shaping their strategies, with the bar being set high by organisations such as ASOS, John Lewis, Zappos.
But how does this apply to the customers of local government? Can – and should - a resident’s experience of finding out the dates of their bank holiday bin collection compare with their latest ASOS order and return? How does a local business’s online planning application compare with its latest request for car insurance?
Local Government doesn’t have to compete as such. As citizens we are bound to our local authority for so much of what we do on a daily basis. Yet Forrester Research found links between CX and people’s attitudes towards their communities, the efficacy of legislation, public compliance and engagement, and the health and efficiency of government workers
It’s important that people are satisfied with their council and see the value in the services they receive to ensure needs are being met, council tax continues to be paid and – from the point of view of the politicians – residents continue to vote!
From a local government perspective therefore, CX isn’t just a moral imperative, it is vital to improve compliance, create trust and engagement, and reduce costs.
At a time when local authorities are under greater financial pressures than ever before, investing in major change feels counter-intuitive. But we believe investing in creating better customer experiences is central to creating the efficiencies needed while improving relations with citizens and local business.
A good deal of progress is being made, with many councils at the forefront of applying new ways of working and new technologies to local services. But the stereotype of over-adherence to bureaucracy, rules and procedures still exists in local government. The question remains – how to break the cycle so that the measures of success become the provision of effective solutions for customers and not rigid adherence to process?
And that change has to come from leadership who are prepared to face potential backlash in the knowledge that a journey can be started towards a different way of working and one in which customer values are central and shared by the employees.
Is the change in beliefs and culture harder in Local Government? Probably. The private sector allows for more direct action on the part of its leaders, where big shifts in operating models and organisation design have become accepted as part of bringing organisations up-to-speed in a new world of ‘digital transformation’.
In the face of ever-strained public finances, it’s a tall order for local government to make radical change. However, it is becoming increasingly essential. Our work with local government shows that it is possible to be creative, make improvements and adapt ways of working to improve customer experience across all channels. This requires a number of vital building blocks, both strategic and operational – with these five areas being key:
With the customer at the centre, this will drive the right behaviours. This approach should focus on joined-up thinking - organisations that wish to be customer-centric need to form around the needs of the customer.
Cut bureaucracy, eliminate waste and create new citizen-centric services by using data to open up new opportunities and drive innovation. Use data to get closer to your customers and analytics to improve decision-making and provide insights.
Improving your customers’ perceptions of you – thinking from an ‘outside-in’ perspective. Focus on ‘shared values’ in every interaction so that your customers understand who you are and what you will do for them.
Getting the best from your people. it may be a cliché but allowing employees more autonomy to show initiative and flexibility means resources are directed to where they are most needed and waste is eliminated.
Structural overhaul isn’t always the answer. Changing the culture, gradually overriding aversion to change, and challenging the traditions will enable a customer-focused mindset. it won’t happen overnight but take incremental steps towards a culture that focuses on the customer rather than adherence to process
Read more about these five areas in our forthcoming blog ‘Five ways to optimise the local government customer experience’.
For local government, whose core purpose is to serve local residents and businesses, customer-centricity should be at the heart of everything it does. By taking an outside-in look at how local government operates, we believe there is scope for immediate and longer-term savings. As what matters to citizens, employees, leaders and other stakeholders comes together, so the true potential of customer-centricity in local government emerges.
Last updated: 20 Apr 2018