Can government meet citizen expectation of consumer-grade experience?

Written by Radhika Chadwick on 27 June 2018

This is the second blog in a three-part series which explores the relationships between citizens and public services providers. Each blog includes a reader poll to get your point of view, so please do share your thoughts!

For the modern, private sector consumer, expectations are at an all-time high. In this context, public services – from antenatal care to pension advice – should expect private sector offerings to be used as reference points. In this article, we explore the interactions between government and citizens and propose a simple framework for thinking about how to apply relevant consumer-grade experiences to public service delivery. 

Every consumer is a citizen but is every citizen a consumer?

Whilst there are differences between government to citizen and business to consumer experiences, there is a lot to learn by drawing (certain) parallels and some excellent examples can be looked at to consider where innovative thinking has improved public services.

Here, a three-part framework for developing aspirational citizen journeys can serve as a useful reference point. Many of these services (such as benefits, pensions and justice) are important and highly emotive parts of citizen’s lives. Delivering these services in the right way means reflecting some of our society’s deep-seated values and carefully balancing them with a transformed relationship between the individual and the state.

  1. Think of citizens the way businesses think of consumers

Governments must reach out in timely and effective ways to their citizens and must deliver value. By adapting a marketing funnel approach, citizens would be guided through each interaction in a consistent way, right through from promotional activity to service uptake.

To do this, public bodies need to build awareness early and provide guidance to citizens pre-emptively through their preferred channels. Adopting a cross-channel approach can help improve both the speed and painlessness of reaching citizens and providing them with timely access. These improvements need to be focused on a relentless drive to improve quality of early interaction touchpoints to make the service delivery more cost efficient and effective in delivering value to citizens.

  1. Rapidly convert interactions with citizens into action

Once the citizen has been engaged, service advice should follow swiftly. A great example is omni-channel customer support available in retail, telecoms and energy consumer sectors, answering customer service enquiries via social media sites.

By challenging long held assumptions on how best to address a citizen’s need, governments can focus on the right channels to improve user experiences while increasing levels of citizen engagement. A quick response drives up satisfaction levels with the service in question and improves motivation levels for engaging with government through digital platforms.

  1. Redefine ‘satisfactory service’ through continuous innovation

Across the consumer landscape, a fast-paced delivery culture has developed. As the qualifying period for acceptable service and product delivery times has shortened in length, the level of scrutiny applied to the duration of government to citizen interactions has increased. Flexible delivery windows and fulfilment approaches (for example, online final fulfilment for document-based outcomes) have shaped citizen expectations of fast and painless public services. 

While government to citizen and business to consumer models have a number of big differences, there is a lot to learn from exploring the fundamental nature of a ‘consumer experience’ and how government can best build these expectations into future service designs.

What do you think?

Can government meet citizen expectation of consumer-grade experience? Please respond to our poll to share your thoughts.


As a Partner in Strategy at EY London Radhika Chadwick specialises in Complex, Transformational and Digitally-Driven Change in Government. She believes we will see a monumental change over the coming decade in both which services government delivers to its citizens, as well as how those services are delivered. New technologies have the potential to help redefine and recharge the relationship between citizen and state, away from largely bureaucratic touchpoints and towards a much more meaningful and citizen-centric relationship. She is delighted to have the opportunity to work across the UK’s central government departments to help make those changes happen for the benefit of our economy and our society. She has 25 years of experience working with both private and public sector organisations in rethinking complex strategic issues and refocusing organisations for success. She is a Trustee of national charity The Restorative Justice Council, and a Sloan Fellow in Strategy & Leadership from London Business School. If you would like to find out about the services Radhika’s team can provide to your department, please get in touch at RChadwick1@uk.ey.com.

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