It’s no surprise that customer experience is a crucial factor to improve brand advocacy and loyalty which leads to increasing customer lifetime value for the private sectors. However can the same be said for the public sectors?
According to a recent survey by leading management consultancy McKinsey, satisfied customers are almost 10 times more likely to trust public sector agencies and agree that they have achieved their stated missions. Such powerful statistics clearly demonstrate the significance of customer experience in the public sector.
In this article, we’ll explore why public sector organizations should focus on customer experience, and what they can learn from the private sector.
What is Customer Experience?
The term ‘customer experience’ encompasses all interactions that a customer has with an organization or brand. For example, a customer of an airline would be likely to interact with the company in several ways. They may use the company’s website or app to book a flight, then receive email updates, deal with staff and check-in at the airport, then have the flight itself, and even post-flight emails. If they’ve had a bad experience, they may also need to deal with customer support. The customer’s perceptions of each of these points of contact contribute to the overall customer experience.
In the context of the public sector, it may be more accurate to refer to individuals as service users rather than customers. However, the same concepts apply, and ensuring a positive customer experience is still an important part of any public sector organization’s operations.
Why is Customer Experience Important for the Public Sector?
The work undertaken by the public sector impacts almost every citizen of a given country in some way, and this work is often vitally important to people’s quality of life. In countries with public healthcare, lives can literally depend on good customer experience from public healthcare organizations. The UK’s National Health Service, for example, is the world’s 5th largest employer and serves millions of ‘customers’, or service users, every year, making good customer experience difficult to coordinate but also absolutely crucial.
Even when areas of the public sector do not directly deal with life and death, customer experience is still very important. Things like making the tax filing process simpler can have an enormously positive effect on a population. Imagine if the same kind of research and development that goes into the user-friendly and intuitive apps of Facebook or Uber went into producing a tax filing app for the IRS. It’s not hard to see this transforming the way people view taxes and even increasing tax revenue.
Many public sector organizations may not be directly linked to profits, but many would argue that their work supersedes profits. It covers all kinds of projects that benefit society, from health and social care to financial services, business support, transport, infrastructure, lawmaking, and much more.
Why Does the Public Sector Lag Behind the Private Sector?
There are many factors behind the perceived lack of focus on customer experience in the public sector. Here are a few of the main reasons:
A near-permanent issue across all public sector organizations is a shortfall of financial resources. If an organization’s primary task is to make sure something functions properly, for example a government-led transport department ensuring trains run on time, then customer service and customer experience are secondary to that and these elements are likely to be underfunded. Budgets are also highly sensitive to the political climate, meaning they can rise and fall unexpectedly.
Disconnection From the End-User
There is a tendency for public sector organizations to become bloated with bureaucracy and inefficiencies over time, as success and efficiency are often less tangible than they are for private companies. This can be a symptom, as well as a cause of disconnection from the end-users of a service. If disconnected managers are making all the decisions for an organization, then it’s easy for concerns about the experience of individual customers to be sidelined.
A Lack of Consequences
When the success of an organization can’t be measured in profits, the consequences of poor customer experience become hard to gauge. While the consequences for service users may be dire, the feedback may never be relayed to public sector policymakers and no consequences felt, so there is often a lack of motivation to enact change.
An Absence of Competition
Competition in the private sector can be a driver of innovation and constant improvement. In theory, if one company does not provide a good customer experience then another will, and the customer can spend their money there instead.
In the public sector, there is generally less competition or even a complete absence of it. This reduces the pressure on public sector organizations to improve and can result in poorer overall customer experience.
What Can Public Sector Organizations Do to Improve?
Get Feedback From Service Users
One rich but often underutilized source of information about customer experience is the customers themselves. Using well-designed surveys to get accurate feedback from service users can give organizations instant insight into the public, helping to inform future policy.
Disjointed government organizations are very susceptible to wasteful, inefficient practices and a lack of communication. By pooling resources, sharing data, and adopting the policies that work on a wide scale, the public sector can greatly improve the way its services are perceived by customers.
Increase or Reassign Funding
A big part of the problem is a lack of appropriate funding being assigned to the improvement of customer experience. Stating the case for the importance of customer experience can result in increased funding or at least a realignment of priorities.
Utilize Data Analytics
Understanding the state of an organization and the data it is producing is fundamental if a change is to become achievable. Thankfully, modern data analytics is capable of providing incredible insight into almost any data set. Software built around advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning can benefit an organization to understand the root-cause for service users dissatisfaction. This helps them to implement corrective measures/changes at the operations level. It can even help to accurately predict future events and trends, allowing organizations to adapt and provide the best customer experience possible.
Governments and public sector organizations should focus on investing in the technology and expertise necessary to achieve large-scale analytics if they want to understand the issues they are facing and build workable solutions.
How Lynx Analytics Can Help
It’s clear that improving the customer experience provided by public sector agencies is both an important and achievable task. Organizations need to refocus on customer experience as a vital metric, just as private companies do. Beyond this, they need to increase or reallocate funding to back this up and simultaneously embrace the latest technology tools that are available to help the process along, such as analytics.
Lynx Analytics specializes in developing software solutions that help organizations collect, compile, and gain deep insight into their data. We will work with you to build a tailored solution and help you to achieve your goals faster.
Talk to a Lynx expert today to learn how you can benefit from the power of analytics.