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Governments Must Improve Engagement with Citizens and Collaborate With Other Providers to Improve Service Delivery and Outcomes, New Accenture Report Finds


WASHINGTON – Engaging citizens and collaborating with a wider network of service providers are among the key practices that can help governments improve the quality of the services and outcomes they deliver to their constituents, according to a new report from Accenture (NYSE: ACN).

In Leadership in Customer Service: Creating Shared Responsibility for Better Outcomes, Accenture identifies a new imperative for governments to build upon what – over the past decade - has become a stronger focus on the quality of the service transaction toward a new relationship with customers and citizens that improves the relevance and transparency of government decision-making, service design and delivery, while fostering a deeper trust of government. The report finds that the need now is to redefine the relationship between public services and citizens, from one of dependency to one of shared responsibility.

“High-performance government organizations understand that, while customer-centricity is crucial to the creation of public value, stakeholders are more than just customers. For leaders in public services, the notion that an individual’s engagement with government is similar to a commercial one – in which taxes are paid in exchange for high-quality services – fails to address the full range of an individual’s interactions with government as a citizen, voter and member of a local community, as well as a customer and taxpayer,” said Greg Parston, director of Accenture’s Institute for Public Service Value.

Leadership in Customer Service: Creating Shared Responsibility for Better Outcomes is the ninth in a series of annual reports from Accenture that examine governments’ customer service challenges, initiatives and leading practices, as well as citizens’ expectations of, and experiences with, government. The report, which analyzes governments’ efforts to deliver improved outcomes through the adaptation of leading customer service practices, is based on desk research across 21 countries, plus 42 in-depth interviews with senior government officials and direct feedback from 8,600 citizens, which provides deeper insight into their perceptions of how well their governments are delivering services that meet people’s needs.

This year’s research showed that establishing and maintaining citizens’ confidence in their governments’ ability to improve their quality of life and cope effectively with 21st century challenges remains an elusive goal for many governments.

Accenture used the combined insights from the research to identify four ‘enabling practices’ that can help governments effect a plan to share responsibility for improved social and economic outcomes with their respective citizenry, build a more co-productive relationship between citizens and governments, and bridge the gap between expectations and reality:

1. Leverage customer insight to meet people’s specific needs and improve equality of outcomes.

The report notes that leading government organizations recognize that people have diverse needs and that a ‘one-size-fits all’ approach to service delivery is neither effective nor appropriate.

Leaders in customer service conduct detailed segmentation studies to better understand their customers and then use this data to differentiate all aspects of their services – from service and program design, to channel strategies and tailoring of communications. This helps them target services and resources more effectively, and thus achieve more equal and universal social outcomes.

One practical application of this approach is the way in which Singapore’s Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board, which administers the comprehensive national social security savings program, has reached out to its very diverse customer base to meet their varying needs quickly and efficiently.

To streamline service delivery, CPF Board has moved most of its services and transactions online. For those who do not have Internet access or expertise, however, CPF Board has installed, in many government buildings, assisted electronic service counters with customer service officers on hand to guide users through the online experience. CPF Board also employs mobile customer service officers to reach the home-bound. The organization also collects and uses selected personal data on its customers to proactively offer tailored services, based on individuals’ circumstances or needs. These moves have enabled CPF Board to close most of its face-to-face service counters, plowing cost savings back into improving the online services.

2. Engage citizens, service users and other stakeholders to define outcomes and design services.

Leading government organizations proactively engage citizens, service users and other stakeholders to help define desired outcomes and provide input into service design. Accenture’s research showed that governments must do more to engage their citizens: In 15 of the 21 countries surveyed for this report, less than a third of respondents thought that their governments did a good job of seeking citizen input.

Some leading governments are, in fact, starting to take citizen engagement seriously and are using innovative means of reaching out to, and seeking input from, customers and other stakeholders.

For instance, Washington State Gov. Chris Gregoire and her staff have employed a highly innovative, three-staged approach to engaging citizens in the process of setting state government priorities and establishing accountability measures. They have held citizen workshops, community leader meetings and a series of town hall events that have provided citizens and other stakeholders an opportunity to have a say in defining the role of their state government, the outcomes on which it should focus its budget, and the performance metrics it should use to measure and report on progress in achieving those goals. This innovative process has helped foster stronger links between the state government and the people it serves.

3. Coordinate resources across and beyond government to deliver outcomes.

Leading government organizations channel experience and resources across government, nonprofits, community groups, private businesses and even citizens themselves to deliver complex, cross-cutting outcomes that address people’s needs in an integrated way. Regardless of how services are structured behind the scenes, people want to have a single point of contact and a coordinated effort to address their needs.

To tackle these problems, organizations that are leaders in customer service are taking a “joined up” approach to service delivery. In the best cases, agencies or departments with responsibility for a particular outcome work together to create joint visions, align strategies and manage resources. The research also highlighted examples of government agencies coordinating effectively with less traditional partners; for example, by developing stronger partnerships with community groups and nonprofits, to understand local priorities and integrate the delivery of their services.

The Australian government has taken a community-led approach to improving life outcomes for children in areas of economic disadvantage. The Federal Department of Families, Housing, Community Services, and Indigenous Affairs has provided funding and practical support for 45 consortia of local community groups and voluntary organizations to support interventions for children up to five years’ old and their families in a particular location. The lead partners in each consortium must demonstrate how their projects would improve outcomes in five critical areas for children in their community, and measure and report results. This has involved close partnership between a range of government and non-government organizations.

4. Focus on improving transparency and accessibility of information, so that customers can hold governments accountable.

Leading government organizations focus on improving transparency and accessibility of information so that customers can hold governments accountable both for quality of service and for actual results achieved.

Accenture’s research shows that government transparency and accountability are critical drivers of citizens’ confidence in government’s ability to improve their quality of life. Survey findings demonstrate, however, that in many countries, people do not feel that their governments are open and transparent. They do not feel particularly well-informed about how their government is performing, nor do they feel that the government is genuinely accountable for results.

To build greater trust among the citizenry, leading government organizations are taking action: They actively and regularly inform people about their policies, programs and services; they provide greater visibility and give customers more control of the customer service process; and they regularly report performance data so that people can compare their services with those in other areas and understand how the quality of services is changing over time.

The New York City government is championing accessibility, transparency and accountability. The 311 call center program, launched in 2003, has helped make information and services more accessible to city residents. More recently, the new City-wide Performance Reporting (CPR) system, an online performance measurement tool, was developed to give New Yorkers access to regularly updated performance data from city agencies. It publishes more than 500 performance indicators that are integral to New Yorkers’ quality of life. The system aggregates the data into “city-wide themes” and residents can see how well the city performs in key outcome areas such as education, social services or public safety. The CPR is helping to change the way that the mayor and citizens hold government agencies accountable.

Leading government organizations also provide easily accessible channels for citizens to provide feedback on services and register their concerns and complaints. They also offer an effective mechanism for resolving those concerns and complaints effectively. Accenture’s research has uncovered some examples of governments doing this well, but also widespread evidence of complacency and a lack of focus on this crucial aspect of customer service. Although most citizens across the 21 countries said they wanted to complain about a government service in the past 12 months, only about 45 percent actually made a formal complaint. The research suggests that citizens do not know to whom or how to complain about services. Frustration levels can rise, especially when inaccessibility of redress impacts social or economic outcomes.

Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. With more than 186,000 people serving clients in over 120 countries, the company generated net revenues of US$23.39 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2008. Its home page is


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