Singapore, Canada and United States Rated Best in Delivering on Promise of Government Customer Service, Accenture Report Finds
The governments of Singapore, Canada and United States do the best job of delivering on the promise of customer service, according to a global research report released today by Accenture (NYSE: ACN). The report, Leadership in Customer Service: Delivering on the Promise, is the eighth in a series of annual reports from Accenture that examine the customer-service challenges, maturity and practices of governments around the world.
This year’s report marks the return to a ranking of 22 governments based on an assessment of their customer-service programs, but with an important enhancement. For the first time the rankings incorporate direct citizen feedback to assess more accurately the quality of government service delivery, reflecting input on criteria such as the user-friendliness of customer-service channels, the breadth and depth of online services accessed by citizens, and overall citizen satisfaction ratings.
The 22 countries included in the report are Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United States, and United Kingdom.
Accenture also interviewed 52 government executives in 17 countries to understand their visions for the future, their current priorities and their lessons learned from past experiences. All of this feedback was analyzed and incorporated into the country rankings and key findings contained in the report.
“Singapore and Canada continue to lead the world in terms of customer service maturity, as they have in previous country rankings,” said David T. Roberts, executive director of Customer Relationship Management in Accenture’s Government operating group. “Each continues to evolve its customer service strategies with an eye toward continuous improvement in each of the four key areas we identified in this year’s report: knowing the customer, making the connections, aligning your people, and not doing it alone. Moreover, Singapore and Canada do the best job of educating their citizens on their customer service initiatives, which results in more favorable citizen perceptions.”
Overall, Singapore (No. 1) leads the first tier of country rankings in the report — which includes services ranging from taxes to community centers to pensions — followed closely by Canada (No. 2), which held the No. 1 position in the last country rankings, in 2005. Both countries have strong and compelling visions of value-led, citizen-centric service. With citizens’ opinions given substantial weight in this year’s evaluation process, the scores for Singapore and Scandinavian countries (No. 4 - No. 7) rose over their previous rankings.
One tier below come the United States, Denmark and Sweden. The United States fell from No. 2 in 2005 to No. 3 in 2007, in part because of the perception by citizens that customer service has not improved in recent times. So while 79 percent of Singaporean respondents believe their customer service has improved over the past three years, just 41 percent of U.S. respondents say they believe that government customer service has gotten better.
Beyond the country rankings, Delivering on the Promise finds that combining excellent front-end customer service with a robust technology infrastructure and highly trained workforce is what allows leading governments to deliver better service to citizens.
“Our report found that while many countries have embraced new technologies — especially the Internet — to reach citizens, their back-end infrastructures have often failed to keep pace. The most innovative customer-service platforms are the most holistic in tying together the front-end promise with back-end delivery excellence,” Roberts said.
This holistic approach underlies the four key findings in Delivering on the Promise derived from in-depth surveys and research of government customer service. The key findings include:
· Know the customer’s needs. Innovative governments are moving beyond basic demographic categories and looking at customers as groups based on characteristics that include their values, needs and intentions. For example, the Central Provident Fund in Singapore wanted to educate young people about the benefits of retirement savings. The Fund took what they knew of their targets’ attitudes and behaviors and combined that with effective marketing techniques garnered from the private sector to provide a truly novel educational experience that includes an online game and prizes. The game is designed to encourage good savings and investment habits, as well as long-term financial planning.
· Make the connections. Organizations whose back-office infrastructures are not aligned to fulfill their citizen-service promises create a credibility and delivery gap. While governments understand that their visions of customer service will evolve over time, they are now focusing more attention on making their existing visions operational through infrastructure improvements. Spain is becoming a model for other European countries in this regard, creating a national platform for information sharing and communication through the development of a common infrastructure that links all the state administrations with regional governments.
· Align your people. Developing the best, most well-equipped front-line workforce is critical to customer-service success because those employees can have the biggest impact. Innovative governments are attacking this issue in one of two ways: ramping up their workforces through extensive training and recruitment, or opting for smaller numbers of highly engaged people. Canada’s approach to managing its workforce is particularly effective, with a robust strategy for workforce transformation called PS Renewal in which service transformation and public service renewal initiatives are tightly coupled.
· Don’t do it alone. Governments’ relationships with citizens, businesses and non-governmental organizations are evolving into a complex ecosystem in which each of the various stakeholders takes on a share of the responsibility for developing and delivering value-led services. This evolution is leading to the next generation of highly integrated customer service.
Accenture has been plotting and analyzing the evolution of government customer service since 2000. The research initially focused exclusively on the maturity of e-Government capabilities in those countries, but in 2005 the scope of the research was expanded to include all facets of government service delivery and entitled Leadership in Customer Service.
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