Across industries, a huge focus of company resources has been on customising and manufacturing customer experiences – otherwise known as ‘experience management’. Now, the public sector is starting to do the same. Below we explore why deliberate, focused investments on improving the experience for the public sector's key stakeholders- the general public, their employees, their partners, their contractors- can achieve change across the full spectrum of critical outcomes these organisations are responsible for delivering.
What is Experience Management?
According to one of the world’s leading research and advisory companies Gartner, Experience Management is defined as “the practice of design and reacting to customer interactions in order to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.”
In layman’s terms, this essentially translates to what a customer thinks of your brand or organisation based on all the interactions they have had with it during the customer lifecycle. Experience management is a common phenomenon within the private sector, with many organisation’s marketing teams dedicating a significant portion of their resources to strategising ways to ensure the organisation’s touchpoints with their stakeholders are favourable and satisfy their needs and wants. This is important, as the better experience they can deliver to their stakeholders, the more loyal these stakeholders will be. Not only will they continue to interact with the company’s brand or products, but if they are truly satisfied, they will evangelise the company to other customers – and this is the most effective promotional tool there is.
Thanks to the connected and competitive global marketplace that we now live in, consumers expect a high standard of service- not just from The Iconic or Woolworths, but their governments too. Suddenly, organisations within the public sector are seeing the implications strong service experience has on their stakeholders; their local community, local media, contracting and partnering organisations etc. and are beginning to utilise the latest technology - digitisation and design thinking, advanced analytics and automation – to not only enhance their knowledge of their demographic (their community) but how they can better serve it.
Why Does It Matter?
Interestingly the global consulting firm McKinsey & Company recently did a study on the impact of customer satisfaction on government agencies. Their results highlighted the positive correlation between improved customer service and the delivery of key outcomes for the organisation – be that mitigating risk, maintaining budgets, improving employee morale and most importantly strengthening the public’s trust in the organisation. More specifically, McKinsey & Company’s research revealed that satisfied customers are nine times more likely to trust the agency providing the service, while dissatisfied customers are twice as likely to publicly express their dissatisfaction and reach out for help at least three times – putting more strain on an agency’s resources and consequently costing them more money. Furthermore, the long-term organisational success of government agencies is 50% driven by organisational health but mutually reinforced by customer experience.
On the flip side, a growing body of behavioural research shows that negative events or experiences will have a more significant impact on an individual’s memory and judgement than positive experiences. In an additional McKinsey & Company study, it was revealed that negative defining moments- an especially long queue while renewing your license, unexpected parking fines, a rude call centre agent at Services NSW – on average affect overall government customer satisfaction scores four times more than positive defining moments.
Consequently, public sector organisations that can not only identify and rectify negative defining moments within their services but go one step further to create a consistent satisfactory experience for all of their stakeholders will see the benefits across the business- not only within their community but their staff and their business processes.
How can the Public Sector utilise Experience Management?
Creating a satisfying customer experience while seemingly straightforward in theory, can be harder to achieve in reality. Furthermore, unlike private sector companies, organisations within the public sector have an obligation to serve everyone within their mandated mission. They can’t just ignore certain customer segments which puts pressure on agencies to provide a one-size-fits-all solution. However, a community is made up of diverse individuals, all with their own unique needs and expectations.
Consequently, the online software company Qualtrics which has developed an experience management platform, recommends government agencies focus on gathering as much information on their customer base/stakeholders as possible. Knowledge is power and the first step in an effective experience management strategy is to truly understand how your segment operates; what are their motivations, what are their common behaviour traits and what are they looking for from their service. The best way to do this is through customer feedback and thankfully technology advancements have allowed organisations to set up automated feedback surveys and tools for customers which aren't a burden to fill out and provide organisations with a better insight into their customer base. Once an organisation has gathered enough intel on its stakeholders, Qualtrics then recommend the organisation look at their customer journey- the complete series of interactions a customer or stakeholder will have with that government agency. The agency should ask itself- during every stage of their journey, are their needs being met? If the answer is no, and there are holes somewhere between step one and step five, organisations then have a clear focus on where to improve the customer journey.
For example, the Australian Tax Office has several separate customer journeys however, one that is particularly important to a customer’s needs (and thus inherent to their eventual satisfaction/dissatisfaction) is information and assistance on preparing and filing tax returns. From survey data the Australian Tax office can collect, the organisation can discover (hypothetically) that customers have been dissatisfied with their experience in trying to file their returns online. The Tax office can then drill down further into the customer feedback, in order to determine the misstep for customers. Gaining a greater volume of feedback could inform the organisation that customers considered the navigation of their website confusing or unclear, which increased their difficulty in completing their task; their tax return. Knowing this, The Australian Tax Office can then work on resolving the issue, which will significantly increase the customer’s experience.
Ultimately, organisations only have a limited amount of control or impact over their customers or demographic, however, the more a government agency commits to learning about their customer base and constantly re-evaluating its experience with it, the better off they'll be in delivering its set outcomes.