Governments that lead the public sector in customer service are focused on developing sophisticated, interactive and transactional capabilities on par with the best of the private sector, according to a new global research report by Accenture. 

This trend is reflected in the South African government’s plans, according to Accenture senior manager, Isabel Malheiro. She says the South African government is focusing more than ever on public service delivery with numerous initiatives being launched to improve government’s ability to deliver more efficient services to citizens.
In the report, Accenture finds a new trend whereby governments are reinventing their customer service delivery programs in order to help build greater trust – and this is redefining the relationship between citizens and their governments.
From allowing drivers to pay for street parking using their mobile phones to using text messaging for “amber alerts” on missing children to installing interactive kiosks that provide information about city events, dining, shopping, and entertainment, governments around the world are adopting innovative new approaches to deliver greater value to citizens.
“Leadership in Customer Service: Building the Trust” is Accenture’s seventh global report on government service delivery. The report showcases insights from indepth interviews with 45 high-ranking government executives from the 11 countries that consistently top Accenture’s annual survey of governments’ use of technology in customer service: Canada, the US, Denmark, Singapore, Australia, France, Japan, Norway, Finland, the UK and Ireland.
Several key findings emerged from the interviews:
* Governments that are considered customer service leaders are introducing services on a par with the best of the private sector, using a range of technologies, to provide unique and interesting services; are advancing by putting in place new modes of operation that vary dramatically from the past, including strong new organisational designs, relentless simplification, business re-engineering, consolidation, and forays into shared services; and are using a combination of four proactive tactics to drive implementation and adoption of their service strategies – the “stick,” the “carrot,” marketing pull and high-touch push.
* Governments are at a critical juncture for service success because they have “reached the limit” with their current approaches to customer service and are re-assessing and re-crafting their customer service strategies to create lasting value.
* Today’s customer service leaders won’t necessarily be tomorrow’s customer service leaders because of the dynamic and constantly changing nature of leading service practices. Remaining in a leadership position in the future will depend upon governments’ ability to adapt to change and address new challenges.
“We delved deeply into what contributed to countries’ world-leading service programs – addressing both challenges and keys to success,” says David Wilkins, global managing director of sales and innovation for Accenture’s Government operating group.
“The value in this year’s study is in the chronicling of the leading practices – anecdotes and lessons learned – of the countries that routinely perform well in our annual study of governments’ use of technology.”
Teresa Bozzelli, an industry analyst and MD of IDC company Government Insights, adds: “Around the world, citizen satisfaction and overall confidence in government’s ability to deliver improved services – from benefit awareness to registration, distribution of benefits, and the delivery of services – is at risk of data integrity/theft, and of not meeting citizen location and convenience demands.
“Governments must create a dynamic, safe, infrastructure and securely integrate consumer information to confidently deliver on the promise of uncompromised information and complete services.”
According to Accenture, the next wave of “leading” governments will deliver customer service that builds an implicit trust between citizens and their government that goes beyond citizen satisfaction.
The report also found that governments are creating increasingly local citizen touch points.
By building local connections with the people they govern, for example by opening local government offices or creating citizen service call centres, governments are better able to incorporate reliable customer feedback into the design of services.
In addition to interviews with high-ranking government officials, the report also surveyed 8 600 citizens in 21 countries to gauge their opinions of how well their governments fared in service delivery.
Among the key findings from that survey:
* In 20 out of 21 countries, citizens felt private-sector business was doing a better job than government in developing online services, with Singapore the only country where citizens felt the opposite was true. The largest gap (27%) in positive perception was in the US, where two-thirds (65%) of respondents said private-sector business was doing a good or excellent job in developing online services, while only 38% said the same about government.
* Despite a growing recognition of the value of marketing for increasing citizen use of online services, its application by government has been limited. As a result, usage rates for online government services have remained relatively flat over the past year.
* In more than half the countries surveyed, the percentage of citizens who reported that government services and departments work together at least fairly effectively is declining.