Reforms in the public sector aimed at improving service delivery have received considerable focus during the last decade

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Reforms in the public sector aimed at improving service delivery have received considerable focus during the last decade. Global trends such as rising customer expectations, budgetary constraints, global competition for investment, public sector reform programmes and changing demographics have transformed the environment in which the public sector operates. This, in turn, has broken down old constraints and created new opportunities.

The public sector is, collectively, the world’s largest service provider. Any incremental improvement in public services positively impacts millions of people. Fundamental to the demand for better public services are the heightened expectations of citizens – expectations that transcend economic status, geographies and the different methods of funding, managing and delivering these services.

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Driven by these changing expectations, the public sector is increasingly required to redefine its role, strengthen its customer focus and build integrated service delivery models. If they are to realize the desired benefits, these models must be based on meeting customer needs more efficiently and more effectively.
Meeting customer expectations calls for a customer-centric approach – one that is built upon integration between public sector agencies and that leverages technology and, where relevant, private sector expertise to develop new public service delivery models.

Customer focus is often challenged by public sector cultures, hierarchical organizational structures and differing agency priorities. Overcoming these challenges means aligning agency priorities to customer requirements to deliver a customer-centric strategy.

Six key elements of a customer-centric strategy
Using customer insight to inform effective customer segmentation
Creating multiple delivery channels
Aligning service delivery to customer journeys
Setting service standards
Creating and empowering customer champions
Continuous improvement through customer feedback
Driven by growing customer expectations, the efficiency and effectiveness of public service delivery are increasingly seen as key metrics of public sector performance. Addressing this issue is therefore a stated priority in most countries.
Many countries have undertaken public sector reforms to improve the quality of public service delivery. However, while the demand for better services is a common factor, the spectrum of expectation varies from country to country. Hoped-for improvements in customer experience and outcomes span seven key areas:
• Speed – The time taken to deliver a service should be the shortest possible for both the customer and the organisation delivering the service, right first time
• Engagement – The manner in which services are delivered should be seen as customer-centric (i.e. participatory and trustworthy with the customer’s needs at the core)
• Responsive – There should be an ‘intelligent’ mechanism in place to address any variation in meeting service levels and to drive changes in the service delivery organisation
• Value – The customer needs to believe that the service delivery mechanism is cost effective, and value is driven by customer outcomes, not organizational processes
• Integration – The service delivery mechanism should be integrated. There should be no ‘wrong door’ policy for the customer
• Choice – There should be multiple channels for service delivery, so that customers can have ‘channels of choice’, depending on specific needs at specific times
• Experience – Personalization of service is necessary to ensure that customers’ experiences are on a par with what they are used to receiving from the private sector.

This means keeping the customer’s needs at the core of every decision, from strategy formulation and design through to execution. Government process re-engineering is often needed to put in place improved, value-for-money processes that will reduce waste and duplication, producing an effective ‘customer journey’
(the experiences a customer has when interacting with service providers).

There are many initiatives already underway which demonstrate how, in the right circumstances, effective public service delivery models can be developed by combining the complementary capabilities and cultures of the public and private sectors. Technology can also be a key enabler. The development of customer-centric models calls for customer insight, looking at customers’ wants and needs (both demographic and attitudinal), in a holistic manner – distinguishing means and ends, focusing on improved customer journeys and measurable benefits, and understanding the strategic risks associated with various service delivery models.

The core message is that ‘Delivering on the customer promise’ is based upon five key strategic enablers:
The reality of the public sector today is that it is assessed by the efficiency of its service delivery. No longer is the effectiveness of the public sector measured by the revenue it generates or the employment it provides…’
The Government will only come to full fruition through major organizational change in administration, and by equipping civil servants with the right skills. This is a long road; it will take time, it will take persistence, and on this road there is a very important signpost. It reads: eGovernment is not about technology, it is about people; it is about putting the citizen in the centre.

Private sector organisations seek to differentiate themselves by providing their customers with unique and personalized experiences. More than ever before, ‘the customer is king’ and the same dictum applies to public sector organisations as they seek to provide enhanced services in return for taxpayers’ ‘investments’.

Our experience shows that public sector organisations are rising to the challenge of offering each citizen a better customer experience. For example, some countries have adopted a ‘customer champions’ approach, while others undertake specific customer satisfaction surveys to assess the performance of their public sector organisations. However, they often face some significant additional challenges – notably their scale, which means that customer ‘journeys’ interface with various agencies, as well as the need to deal with people as individuals possessing unique attributes, degrees of need, different channel preferences and complex living environments.

Although these pressures have always been a fact of life for public sector organisations, they have increased significantly in recent years. As a result, one-size-fits-all models for service delivery are being phased out and new models introduced.

The public sector is increasingly expected to run itself effectively, efficiently and in a customer-centric manner, importing key private sector concepts where appropriate – and this means aligning every action/strategy towards a meaningful customer experience. While the customer must sit at the centre of service-delivery strategy, the preferred implementation approach needs to take into account the ways in which public sector organisations are structured. In particular, hierarchical,
‘siloed’ structures can present a major challenge to the delivery of customer- centric services across all agencies within an organisation.

To become truly customer-centric, public sector organisations need first and foremost to gear their cultures towards serving the customer. That means aligning agency and customer priorities. It means understanding the complexity of different customer groups and providing them with a choice of channels and interfaces via a demand-driven model – the more customers that there are, the more channels they tend to use according to the level of support and guidance they
need. It means addressing agency silos so that customers can be served effectively through a single point of contact. And it means using truly customer-centric metrics to motivate staff.

Customer is king Six key elements of a customer-centric strategy
Using customer insight to inform effective customer segmentation
Creating multiple delivery channels
Aligning service delivery to customer journeys
Setting service standards
Creating and empowering customer champions
Continuous improvement through customer feedback
Integrated and coordinated government is of fundamental importance since it holds the key to unlocking effectiveness and efficiency in service delivery. It has the potential to remove unnecessary duplication and improve the use of scarce resources… it also contributes to better communications in highly-complex organisations.
Customer service excellence means many things to many people and is something often noticed more by its absence than its presence.


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