Customer experience has become one of the most critical differentiators in the marketplace today. From acquiring customers to engaging with and retaining them over time, companies are increasingly focusing on experience-led interactions and journeys. Taking a customer-first approach is now almost becoming mandatory for organisations looking to sustain or build business. This shift is being underpinned in large part by increased competition, technological advances allowing customer’s real-time access to data and the opportunity to self-serve, and a change in consumer behaviour, with consumers choosing digital channels first. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated this shift, evident in the sustained growth of online shopping. Changing consumer expectations, however, is not limited to only the private sector. Public sector organisations cannot assume that their captive market will tolerate lower customer expectations or no requirement for service innovation. Public sector customer satisfaction needs to catch-up with private sector benchmarks or there is a danger that customers will continue to lose trust and confidence in these organisations and the services they provide.
Public sector organisations need to radically change the approach towards customer service and push to better leverage data across departments and directorates to drive better customer experience. This requires a transition from the traditional hierarchies, policies and internal silos. A survey by PwC of 15,000 people found that 1 in 3 would leave a brand after just one poor customer experience. Clearly many public sector organisations do not face these challenges as there are few alternatives customers can turn to but can be impacted through voter selection at the ballot box or complaints to the relevant ombudsman service.
In addition, better customer service can lead to reduced costs too. Last year, HMRC alone handled a staggering 33.3 million calls. Efficiencies of reducing each phone call by just one second could save 380 days in call time. As such, marginal improvements to the way public services are delivered can achieve significant cost savings and help improve the lives of millions of citizens that use them.
For many organisations, knowing where to start is both a significant challenge and a daunting prospect. However, technology has enabled the ability to transform services in a modular approach rather than taking a big-bang approach. Additionally, technology has created new service touchpoints that whilst not addressing a complete service request, can provide timely updates, or access to knowledge bases that provide customers an update which can reduce service calls. The application of machine learning and artificial intelligence has the potential to transform service delivery across any sector through the ability to model and then predict demand. This will enable better resource scheduling, refine shift patterns and understand service request complexity.
The mining of data can allow organisations to understand which processes can be streamlined and transitioned to self-service, where citizen access to the right data can result in service improvements. Technology initiatives such as chat bots, mobile self-service and location services, have the ability to transform many aspects of Public Sector service provision, from requesting permits, making bookings for particular services or appointments through to getting updates on a case. The overall customer journey and experience can be transformed, and this can be undertaken on a service-by-service basis.
The role of the frontline staff and systems interoperability are critical factors to support this transformation. Many organisations suffer from the need for different departments to keep requesting the same data from customers as a result of systems not being able to integrate. This leads to frontline staff frustrations from the inability to cross channel silo’s, difficulties in collaborating with colleagues in different departments and fully understand the specific requirements of the customer. This is amplified where frontline staff are left to handle complex cases without additional training, tools and access to data.
For Public Sector organisation there is a challenge to provide customer satisfaction and resolution, but these are often traded-off against speed, accuracy and cost. Taking a Customer First approach can support all these objectives from driving self-service, empowering front-line staff with systems and data to address complex cases an using data mining to understand demand and managing costs.
Infor is a leading cloud-based solution provider which has its software hosted by AWS. Infor’s Cloudsuite is its integrated solution across CRM, Finance, HR and Supply Chain that enables an integrated view of an organisations critical data. With AWS solutions, this information can be augmented to drive service insights and innovations such as appointment bookings via Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa. Moving to cloud technologies can support organisations to reduce or remove fixed costs, and transition to Software-as-a-Service approach with employee, customer, or population-based pricing models available. Cloud transition also supports the flow of data across systems and can drive service innovation, increasing customer satisfaction and reducing cost of service. FifthQuadrant is Infor’s cloud transformation partner in Public Sector and supports organisations on their service redesign journey to truly put customers first.