• Digital Transformation
  • Change Management

08 Feb, 2018

Increasing Citizen Engagement and Improving Outcomes

This article seeks to highlight the gap between customer expectations and public service provision. Put simply, most understandings of the customer experience within these organisations are not compatible with the expectations customers truly hold.

There are several approaches to addressing this issue. The first approach, is to consider the opportunities that digital technology creates and set transformation goals in line with government aims. Designing digitisation strategies to guide the policy-making agenda can help to speed its execution.

The second approach is to evaluate regularly whether digital programs are providing the benefits they were designed to provide, and if those programs should be adjusted to reflect changes in policy aims or societal needs.

Budgetary reform and subsequent organisational change cannot occur at the expense of leaving the customer in the past, particularly within demand-driven organisations. Services that react to customer needs, not prescribe these needs, are essential in the digital age.

Role of Digital Transformation

Throughout the private sector, digital transformation has improved customer engagement and delivered substantial uplifts in service quality.

These improvements in service are not solely due to any distinct improvement in the product or service offered. Instead, it can be argued that the rise of the smartphone and digital consumer platforms have created new opportunities to streamline the consumption of this service.

Digitisation enables businesses to alter points of interaction and save customer time. There are many excellent examples of organisations in the private sector exploiting these digital platforms exist, with mobile consumer applications just one key aspect of this change.

Key Factors

Digitising public services involves the consideration of two key factors.

Firstly, the core capabilities used to engage citizens are of great importance, the service offered, processes implemented and decision-making approaches adopted must become increasingly data-driven.

Secondly, the organisational enablers that drive these capabilities must be honed; strategy must be clarified, governance must be strong and technology must be utilised.

The deployment of specific consumer applications will enable the public services to target several key areas:

  1. Altering the point of interaction
  2. Saving customer time and wider experiential improvements.

Public services can use mobile technology to engage with citizens, improve customer service and develop trust.

One common observation of the digital era is that face-to-face contact is diminished due to changing demand. Citizens do not wish to physically visit locations where digital alternatives are available. Many organisations have mitigated this by shifting the point of contact from the branch, shop or office to the nearest tablet, smartphone or computer.

A great deal of the disconnect between citizens and public services can be attributed to the fact that front-line staff numbers have been reduced to keep pace with budgetary pressures, reducing the visibility of service staff. However, technological solutions have not been put in place to fill this gap in interaction.

Rebuilding Trust

Banking is a perfect example of this need to shift points of customer interaction and rebuild trust in a new consumer environment. To mitigate threats from digital challengers and to restore consumer confidence, the creation of a strong digital presence is essential.

Successful retail banks such as Barclays, Lloyds and HSBC, have created systems that shift reliance from the bank manager to consumer technology. Instead of relying on a local branch, the consumer instead logs into a smartphone app, opening a dashboard that offers tailored financial products, displays the state of any open accounts and can enable everything from mortgage applications to credit card repayments.

In the aftermath of the global recession, banks felt the rise of a ‘footloose’ customer, with individuals frequently moving to another bank if their existing customer experience does not meet personal standards. Technology has enabled this further. Where public services and banking deviate, is in the fact that public services hold a degree of complacency because, for most citizens, there is no alternate service.

Use of Technology to Better Meet Consumer Needs

A core driver of technological innovation is the reducing the time taken to complete tasks. Whilst this article takes a critical view of public services and technological innovation, it must be noted that, in some areas, technology is being used to better meet consumer needs.

The NHS, in partnership with Babylon, has recently launched a service named ‘GP at Hand’. This service offers the ability to engage with patients through the internet, allowing patients to speak with GP’s anywhere and at any time.

It must be noted that this also allows the GP to work from wherever they may wish – in the same way it enables patient flexibility. GP’s can then push prescriptions through to local pharmacies and write referrals, offering a similar service to a GP outside any ‘hands-on’ treatment required.

It can be argued that this could constitute a future model for the NHS, enabling the more efficient allocation of resources. It offers the potential for the expertisation of treatment, greater speed of diagnosis and offers GP’s a mobile working capability. There is also the possibility to leverage wearable technology, transmitting heart rate, blood pressure and activity data through to GP’s via the application.

However, we once again see the siloed nature of technology implementations – these rollouts are often exclusive to single departments, lacking a cohesive unity across public services.

Taking Full Advantage

The public sector is not yet taking advantage of the improvements in service digital can offer.

Few governments face the same competitive pressures that compel businesses to digitise, simply because it is unlikely they will be usurped by a digital challenger. However, this should not mean that public sector digitisation cannot occur successfully.

Public services are stretched, high demand organisations facing enormous public and political pressure, managing average budget reductions of 22%. Doing more with less is an everyday challenge to public services, with improvements in provision demanded by the customer and increases in efficiency expected from policy makers.

Chaucer offers advisory services on GDPR, as well as DPO and GDPR Representative services. Please contact us on DigitalAdvisory@Chaucer.com or 0203 934 1099.


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