Improving customer experience of public sector services

Improving customer experience (CX) starts with understanding customer journeys, issues and behaviours.

Mapping customer journeys and getting under the skin of what makes your customer tick, should be the first step when looking to adapt your operating models to better serve customer needs.

In my role at NS&I Government Payment Services (NS&I GPS), I’ve been involved in a number of transformative initiatives with customers in the public sector that have enabled them to completely change the public’s perception of how they deliver their services.

Here are the top three recurrent themes that, in my view, drive success:

  1. Think like a customer
    When you look through the customer’s eyes at the service you provide, you see how to make it better. To truly think, act and plan from a customer viewpoint is highly challenging. Taking a holistic and ‘eyes open’ approach to the customer experience and putting in a place a structured and systemic approach is key. One of the ways you can do this is through looking at the customer journey: you take example cases of where people interact with you, and map out the process, tools, systems, and expectations across each stage. How do customers feel, and what are their emotions? Now, can you improve these reactions to your service?
  2. Be open, collaborate, and share ecosystems
    Engage with your customers, listen to what they have to say about how your service performance makes them feel, and collaborate with them. The most successful CX programmes that drive most benefit come from working with your customers. Invite them into collaboration sessions – not just focus groups, but co-creation labs – reward them for their involvement, work hard at making them your advocates. Be aware of new technologies emerging in the market place, particularly those gaining traction in the commercial environment, where embracing leading edge CX-related technologies is an absolute strategic imperative, driving the very survival of many organisations. Look at how other departments are doing things to explore lessons you can learn and even ideas and systems you can share to help reduce the costs of innovation.
  3. Recognise that data is fundamental
    Data sharing with partners enables new business models; data sharing with customers demonstrates transparency. Advanced Analytics today allows us to predict customer behaviour, to proactively recommend services on a more personalised and relevant basis. Machine learning and automation is based on having the right data available to be able to analyse and make decisions.

At NS&I GPS, we use customer centric design systems to drive collaborative development for our customers in the public sector. I mentioned Customer Journey Mapping; this is an area we are making considerable progress in and passing the benefits onto our customers. I just wanted to highlight two approaches that can perhaps help with your own strategies around improving outcomes:

Are you improving customer interactions? The model office
This is all about reflecting your live operations so that you can test and adapt functionality as your ideas are developed. It’s a way of seeing things as customers see them and making sure that customer-centricity is at the heart of the solution.

Are you changing perceptions? CX Lab
The other approach is through the NS&I GPS Customer Experience Lab (CX Lab). This is where we prototype the customer journey and evaluate how the journey actually looks. We look also at how it can be refined and what the various stages might have to be to turn the organisation around – to face away from its back office and traditional preoccupations with handling the administrative workload, and to face the customer and deliver a refreshed approach.

Smiling happy people
All of which brings us on to why do we want to maintain this momentum on customer experience? This is very much an ‘everybody wins’ scenario. The customer receives better service, and that helps raise standards of awareness around online services, ease of access, clarity of information and speed/convenience. (Bear in mind, that it is always important to run traditional physical services alongside digital ones so that all customer needs are taken care of).

The organisation itself wins by truly doing more with less. Operational costs are reduced, not least because there is less physical interface with the public. This not only impacts headcount, but can ultimately lead to real estate reductions. Better services are delivered and customer satisfaction levels rise. Employees become happier too and altogether less fraught.

What do your customers prefer?
Do you believe that customer experience strategies can reduce your costs and your department’s stress or do you think traditional approaches still address what the bulk of what your customers want?

There are always two sides to every argument. Why not share your views on the topic and we can get a meaningful discussion going from which we can all pick up some valuable tips and insight.

Please get in touch; it would be great to hear about your experiences of implementing customer-centric solutions.

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