Service deliveryDigital Customer ServiceSimplicity and choice equal digital customer service success

Simplicity and choice equal digital customer service success

How can the public sector deliver excellent digital customer service?

Digital customer service excellence means many things to many people and is something often noticed more by its absence than its presence. However, get it right first time and you don’t have to spend time recovering from mistakes or repeating the processes which were incorrect in the first place. At a time when resources are being stretched to breaking point, the efficiencies driven by excellent digital service are seriously welcome.

While it’s true that the public sector doesn’t have competitors in the same way as the private sector, dissatisfaction among citizens still matters. When citizens feel consistently let down by their digital engagements with public sector offices, they may choose to just not bother. If this happens, it’s back to square one with long waiting times on the phone or in person.

That’s a serious problem, because it seems that ‘old-school’ customer service may be where the real problem (and cost) exists. The latest UKCSI Index from the Institute of Customer Service reports that the biggest performance gap in the sector, when compared to the UK’s all-sector average, relates to customer telephone experiences. The scores for these metrics fell below the all-sector average across the public sector.


Appetite for digital

Reassuringly for the public sector, they will be providing these innovative services to a receptive audience.

A survey by Riverbed Technology, the application performance company, found that the British public want to have more digital access to and interaction with public sector bodies. Seventy per cent of respondents would like to engage with public sector services through digital means. Research by YPO adds that over half of public respondents to their survey are in favour of enhanced online self-service – 17% adding that it would improve customer service significantly.

Steve Foster, Senior Solutions Engineering Manager, Riverbed Technology, said: “People are happy to pay their council tax online, use biometrics as valid ID at Border Control and use tablet devices to check in for an appointment at the doctors. These are all currently being tested or deployed across the nation.

“While experiences are being somewhat met, UK citizens want more – our survey found that citizens are happy to use tablet devices to check in for appointments or use social media to contact their MP, with a quarter even open to futuristic services such as driverless ambulances, drones delivering passports and robots assisting in operations. It’s up to government to meet and exceed these expectations by delivering services that are efficient, readily available and interactive.”


Secrets of success

According to the team at Riverbed, citizens’ penchant for instant communication and streamlined information access is underpinning their digital experience across different sectors which public sector organisations need to consider.

Almost two-thirds of citizens find the amount of information they have to provide ‘off-putting’ when engaging digitally with public sector organisations. Results even suggest some would favour convenience over data privacy with 57% of respondents calling for a greater sharing of personal information between public sector departments to avoid repeated form filling.

Foster said: “Despite continued reports and reservations about sharing sensitive data, people would like to, and will communicate and engage digitally. But only if the public sector raises its game to offer a digital experience that balances service, performance and security.”

Just as the private sector does, providing citizens with flexibility to engage in the way that they want will drive engagement. After all, citizens are consumers of public services. As such they should expect good service when they want it, via the channel of their choice.

Commenting for a previous article about customer service on Digital by Default News, Andrew Cleminson, Business Development Director at Agilisys said: “Customer service is fundamental to every successful organisation regardless of the sector they operate within. As consumers, we receive increasingly sophisticated levels of customer service from private sector companies as they strive to differentiate themselves. As a result, we expect public sector bodies to deliver the same standard of service, despite budget limitations, headcount freezes and the challenges imposed by the presence of inflexible legacy systems and processes.

“In an increasingly saturated consumer world, simplicity holds the greatest appeal. The public sector generally provides services that are not only mandatory but often perceived to be mundane. By improving the way in which they are delivered, it’s possible to meet our expectations as both citizens and consumers. This may not turn our experience of paying personal taxes, applying for benefits or taxing our cars into joyous ones, but it can make them considerably easier.”


Infrastructure support

When it comes to digital customer service, it remains a fact that the public sector lags behind the private sector in most areas, including optimisation of information for mobiles devices and offering a range of technology available to access information, which demonstrates how investment in digital infrastructure needs to accelerate.

Street concluded: “There are many challenges facing public sector leaders, as they go digital by default. One, as we have seen, is and will be the creation of new services that meet the expectations of an increasingly digital savvy public, while simultaneously making government more efficient. Moving to a digital first model requires the introduction of new systems and technologies to build an infrastructure that not only improves frontline services but will see the back office become more efficient.”

To sum up, successful digital customer service is all about using technology to transform the ways your organisation communicates in order to keep pace with the rapid evolution of consumer expectations. Achieve that and efficiencies will follow.

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