Understand what your customer wants when delivering digital government services

It’s more apparent than ever that trust between citizens and government is the foundation required to deliver important services successfully. Nasi Jazayeri, Executive VP and General Manager, Public Sector, Industries Cloud, explains
Now, people expect the public sector to be just as efficient as private sector companies. [FangXiaNuo / Getty Images]

You probably have an opinion about the effectiveness of our government. Most of us do. Your opinion may have been swayed by your personal interactions with public sector employees and organisations. These interactions are increasingly moving online, along with private sector services like grocery ordering and telehealth appointments.

Now, people expect the public sector to be just as efficient as private sector companies. But new Salesforce research shows that there is still room for improvement when it comes to digital service delivery in the public sector. Of the 35,000 people surveyed in the Connected Government Report, only 54% said it’s easier to get help from the government online. And 75% believe the pandemic changed the way government delivers services.

Our research found four ways public sector organisations can improve their digital experiences and better meet constituents’ needs:

  • Rebuild trust with data security and transparency
  • Learn to meet digital demands
  • Use emerging technologies to offer personalised, secure experiences
  • Give employees the tools they need 

One of the primary ways that people form their opinion about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the government is through the personal interactions they have with public sector employees and organisations. As service delivery points are increasingly going digital-first, these interactions are more likely to take place online. With the private sector’s success in digital service delivery, such as grocery delivery services or telehealth services, citizens have grown to expect private sector efficiency from the public sector. 

Of the more than 35,000 people surveyed in the Connected Government report, 75% believe that the pandemic changed the way government delivers services, and 54% said that it is easier to get help from the government online. These numbers indicate that there is still room for improvement when it comes to digital service delivery in the public sector. 

Better digital government experiences increase trust

Research from the Connected Government report shows that trust is still the top consideration among citizens for three straight quarters, with price and data privacy coming in second and third. What’s more, 87% of those surveyed across 36 countries said a “great” digital experience would increase their degree of trust in government. Countries where a large portion of customers indicated all or most of their needs had been met include traditionally strong performers: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands, and the UK.

"IT modernisation does not need to be a multi-year project — what took years now takes months"

These countries stand out because they all have governments that have made digital transformation a consistent priority for a number of years. 

How do customers want to engage with government services?

There is an opportunity for the public sector to emulate private sector success when it comes to providing trusted digital experiences. And it is easier to get started than one might think. One of the many lessons learned during the height of the global pandemic is that we have proven that IT modernization does not need to be a multi-year project. For example, we have seen customers at the federal, state and local level transform digital services delivery in a matter of months, not years.

Take the vision of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA), an agency in the US that needed to modernise its platform to help people get financial assistance when they most needed it. Before the onset of COVID-19, IHCDA’s work was face-to-face, but this quickly ceased to be a safe option. After moving to a cloud-based platform, IHCDA was able to continue providing critical housing services while simultaneously streamlining its approval process as demand increased.

This story illustrates the importance of innovation when it comes to digital infrastructure in regulatory roles — those that shape policy that impact health, economy, safety and security protocols. So, what did we find when we asked people about the most important improvements governments can make in their service delivery and interactions with the public? Those surveyed cited:

  • 50% – a guarantee of security of personal or institutional data
  • 43% – greater levels of transparency around how data is secured
  • 42% – greater transparency around how data is being used

A graph showing people’s digital preferences

A graph showing people’s digital preferences:  55% want to manage change of life events, and 54% would apply for a passport or visa online.

Here are some examples of what the public sector can do to rebuild trust:

  1. Increase transparency and make government processes easy to understand
  2. Make it easier for constituents to engage and services easy to use
  3. Establish and maintain trusted relationships
  4. Improve accessibility to public sector services

Customers who have more trust may be more willing to share data, allowing governments to deliver better, more personalised services. Highly informed government organisations will be better positioned to meet the needs of their citizens, even with limited budgets.

Agencies learning to meet digital government demands

The public sector can — and should — keep this momentum going. Digital transformation can help governments keep pace with increased demands driven by developments in the private sector and be better prepared to meet future challenges. Digital services put in place during the pandemic continue to demonstrate tangible impact.

Emerging technologies are driving government service delivery

Emerging technologies create new opportunities for digital government to create trusted experiences and engage with customers. Emerging technologies — like artificial intelligence (AI), IOT or drones — can help government organisations interact with customers in ways that are more personal, efficient, and secure.

A graph showing how people feel about the government introducing new technologies: 23% = online access to gov services, 18% online electoral voting.

Trust (or lack thereof) has a strong influence on people’s willingness to engage with government, according to the report. By closing the trust gap, public sector organisations can transform their digital service delivery models and define what a digital-first future could potentially look like.

Give employees the tools they need

To best serve their customers, government organisations have the opportunity to take a holistic view of digital transformation, one that encompasses both the front-end customer experience (CX) and the back-end employee experience (EX).

Of the people surveyed, 41% believe that there is a direct link between the customer experience and the public sector employee experience (or the way in which employees internalise and interpret the interactions they have with their organisation). Unfortunately, 47% feel government employees lack the necessary tools to serve the public.

"Transformative CX isn’t created by technology alone; government employees are a critical aspect in the customer experience"

The key takeaway here is that transformative CX isn’t created by technology alone; government employees are a critical aspect in the customer experience. And with the demand for digital skills continually increasing, public sector organizations have a key role to play in addressing the widening skills gap in their workforce.

Investing in the employee experience can pay off through happier, more productive employees and satisfied customers. ​​The bottom line: people trust government more when their digital experience is better. And the (digital) experience is better when the people who are delivering those services are properly equipped to do so.

Creating a digital-first public sector does much more than make the lives of customers easier. It’s using innovative technologies, making happier employees and streamlining service delivery that empowers customers and establishes a foundation of trust. We understand what customers want — it’s time we use these building blocks to form a more connected government. 

Find a comfortable spot, get the full report, and learn more. 

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