Driving Government Services via Customer Needs

What drives you?

We all have different things that motivate us to work hard. Whether this stems from the inspiration you get from your kids or from a childhood goal you set at the age of ten, we all are driven by different motivations. Our passions are our fuel, and without them, we feel restless and unfulfilled. And the more passionate we are, the more likely we will reach those goals.

Passion can also lead to successful organizational operations and outcomes. For government agencies, customers are at the heart of their service missions. Although service missions are centered on customer needs, agencies often struggle to meet these needs digitally. By focusing on meeting customers’ digital expectations, government agencies can provide better services and fulfill mission objectives.

Chris Dorobek of the DorobekINSIDER program spoke with Chris Zinner, Managing Director for Digital Government for Accenture Federal Services, about how government can become more customer centered and  Accenture’s new report Serving Citizens: Strategies for Customer Centered Government in the Digital Age.

Providing excellent services to citizens, businesses and other organizations is essential to the mission of most agencies. Despite this fact, many agencies struggle to put the needs of their customers first when designing and developing mission services. Accenture and the Partnership for Public Service teamed up to develop and publish Serving Citizens: Strategies for Customer Centered Government in the Digital Age, a report exploring this common struggle and the customer-centric approach. The report highlights valuable lessons from federal initiatives that simplified the interaction process with the government by implementing a customer-centric approach throughout digital services. The document also contains reform suggestions that can better enable agencies to provide citizens with excellent customer service.

A customer-centric approach means the needs of the customer is the driving force behind the way services are designed and delivered, and taking this approach is particularly challenging for government organizations. Zinner explains how the evolution of government organizational structures results in the customers experiencing fragmented interaction with the government.

“If you think about government organizations who have a customer facing mission, over time, they’ve launched new programs, new departments and essentially created very complex organizational structures,” he said. “And now in the digital world, as you’re trying to provide that digital face to that organization, the goal is to try to overcome these silos. But often times because [of] the way they were built, over time, with their unique processes in silos, it’s incredibly difficult for an agency to provide that single front door, that single seamless integrated experience for the customer.”

Part of a successful customer-centric strategy entails bridging the gap between older and younger customers. The overabundance of digital services can be daunting to a customer. Zinner said the key to bridging the gap was providing various services delivery methods from which to choose. By providing choices, customers that feel more comfortable coming to the office or using the phone will be satisfied along with individuals in younger generations who demand greater digital service interaction.

Although government organizations are slowly shifting toward the citizen-centric model, there have been some successful attempts. One agency Zinner referenced that is successfully adopting citizen-centric policies is the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Specifically, the IRS has made significant investments to revamp its website in addition to analyzing its customer interactions to understand what opportunities there are to deflect face-to-face interactions.

even if you compare websites today versus two or three years ago, you’re starting to see the shift, right?” Zinner asked. “If you looked at the navigational menu of the average federal agency website, it looked more like an org chart, and less than a list of needs that customers who come to their website would actually need to fulfill. You’re starting to see that change. You’re going to federal websites now, for example, the IRS, SSA, Business USA.gov, etcetera, where they do try to anticipate what [the] needs [are of] people [that] come most often to this website.”

The Serving Citizens report also describes the “one government approach.” Zinner described this as government agencies working collaboratively to provide better services to all customers. For example, in the face of a natural disaster, citizens needing disaster relief may feel overwhelmed trying to locate appropriate relief services.

“There are so many different organizations that you would have to go to, to get all of your needs met. And why are we placing that burden on the customer?” Zinnner proposed. “Shouldn’t we use the power of, of digital services to encourage collaboration between agencies to come together to deliver that single integrated customer experience where they just come to a single place and say here’s my needs?”

To read the complete Serving Citizens: Strategies for Customer Centered Government in the Digital Age, download a copy here.


Featured Image Attribution: Brian Snelson

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