How can the public sector meet citizen experience expectations?

Nigel Herbert

The way we interact with the world and each other has fundamentally changed. Throughout this transformation, Employee Experience (EX) and Customer Experience (CX) have become widely seen as critically important for driving efficiency, quality of service and overall organisational success – things that are both particularly imperative and particularly difficult to do in the public sector. Meanwhile, there’s growing pressure to improve experiences in this sector in order to meet the rising expectations of the general public. These are the three key expectations public sector organisations will need to focus on meeting in order to be successful in 2022:

1. Investing in Inclusion & Equality in a values-driven era
2. Offering a stellar digital experience by providing real-time feedback
3. Personalising the individual experience across all channels

Investing in inclusion and equality in a values-driven era

Empathy and inclusion have become more important than ever in evaluating and optimising the citizen experience over the past two years. This year, promises by government organisations to engage in discussions around these topics won’t be enough. Employees want to feel valued – whoever they are and regardless of their socio-economic background – while citizens too want meaningful change.

Amidst a backdrop of the Great Resignation and rising cases of employee burnout, government organisations have to ensure employees are given a sense of belonging in their place of work – whether they’re physically at their place of work or working remotely. This sense of inclusion and belonging can be achieved by making sure every single employee is engaged equally and fully supported through the multitude of life’s challenges, while also ensuring they are aligned with the organisation’s mission.

If an employer can engage employees with empathy and flexibility while communicating the value they are directly contributing to the mission within their individual roles, they will build loyalty and trust with their staff – the key ingredients to a great employee experience - while each member of staff’s sense of purpose and belonging becomes a valuable contributor to the overall improvement of performance and services.

To do this, organisations need to think about empowering them with the right tools and insights to make the best decisions at the best times. For example, by providing employees with the means to give in-the-moment feedback and collating this in an executive dashboard, managers can find out and analyse the ‘why behind the what’ of what employees are saying and feeling. These dashboards can clearly demonstrate how far the dial has turned in each core value area. Plus, decisions made based on these insights mean staff feel they have the opportunity to excel and succeed. Their confidence then increases, which in turn enhances efficiency and effectiveness, demonstrating benefits to the bottom line.

In terms of communicating ambitions in values such as empathy and inclusion to citizens, the good news for public sector organisations is that continuing disruption around these topics across sectors has created a priceless opportunity to demonstrate the authenticity of their efforts. To do this, organisations can begin to create ‘knowledge ecosystems’ in order to harness the ideas and creativity of citizens, employees and other stakeholders alike. By facilitating such forums, organisations can engage in two-way conversations which can be channelled into ideation and action. Crowdsourcing in this way helps funnel investments into the right areas to promote values, empathy and inclusion and reveals how to embed the expression of these values into the citizen experience.

Offering a stellar digital experience by providing real-time feedback

We are living in a time-starved, digital world where more and more citizens expect to self-serve online or receive answers to questions almost instantly, even when requesting public services or engaging with government and healthcare organisations. As consumers, the public has grown used to engaging directly with service providers or transacting with banks via mobile apps or online banking sites. Through this, citizens have become accustomed to deciding where and when they can engage with organisations, putting the burden on public organisations to offer the same experience.

This kind of ‘on-demand’ offering requires exceptional digital experiences. And not only do public organisations need to match this ‘always-on’ mindset to delivering citizen experiences, but they also need to ensure interactions are intuitive and easy to navigate or risk delivering a bad experience. For example, a government website that fails to signpost clearly information the citizen is seeking will leave the user feeling frustrated, which may ultimately result in them abandoning the online process. 

In this event, one of two things is likely to happen. Either the citizen will abandon the process altogether, or they will call the contact centre to solicit human help – burdening the contact centre’s already stretched resources with an additional load that could be taken care of online. What’s more, when a citizen is interacting with an organisation online, they leave breadcrumbs of information that can be used as the ingredients for additional insight into the citizen experience that is invaluable for driving continuous improvement in the digital experience.

For example, the data collected during online interactions can be used to drive proactive, real-time service excellence, promoting that always-on mindset to delivering optimised experiences. Analysis of the signals given out during digital engagement also helps to inform the shape of the end-to-end citizen journey for organisational leaders, as it crosses channels from the website to the call centre and so on. This helps management to pinpoint and solve issues for an excellent omnichannel citizen experience.

Personalising the individual experience across all channels

Excellent digital experiences must now include personalisation. We’ve all become used to a personalised experience on the internet, as brands market to us based on our browsing habits and interactions. Citizens expect to be a part of a continuous feedback loop, and they expect that feedback to then be integrated into an organisation’s service. They are becoming less and less forgiving of bad experiences.

In the public sector, far from making money, the purpose of offering a personalised experience has to be centred around driving empathy as well as efficiency and be harmonised across all channels.

Efficiency comes from having a single view of the citizen or patient, where all previous insights into them including names, address, date of birth and previous interactions with the organisation are gathered to inform what information is served up to them and to define how the organisation and its employees interact with them.

But further than this, and arguably more importantly, when insights are used to inform and deliver a personalised experience to a citizen, an organisation is demonstrating that it is listening to what is important to them, and is willing to act on that basis. Through the simple act of personalisation, public sector organisations are already responding in an appropriate and sensitive way.

Personalisation of the experience leaves citizens feeling valued and heard, and not just treated as one of many, or another national insurance number. This is instrumental in building trust between a service provider and every citizen it is serving.

The key to succeeding in 2023 is the ability to adapt

Citizens in 2023 are looking for innovation and collaboration from brands and government organisations alike. Private businesses are becoming adept at evolving alongside consumer wants and needs, and the public sector needs to keep up by embedding the optimisation of the citizen and employee experience into its DNA. It can do this by installing both these groups as part of a continuous feedback loop and integrating these insights into their operations. While the public has more on their plates than ever before, prioritising citizen and employee needs through personalisation and empathy to inform decision-making will be the most important thing public sector organisations can do this year.