Mark Hassell is a partner in KPMG’s Customer, Brand & Marketing Advisory. He brings more than 20 years of customer and brand leadership experience to his role having worked with Virgin Australia, Qantas and British Airways. Mark now consults widely across the public sector at the federal and state level. The Mandarin sat down with Mark to discuss the customer experience in government.
A compelling vision and narrative
For Mark, to maintain or improve levels of customer satisfaction or drive better customer outcomes be it for an individual citizen or for a business, , the experience is pivotal. He says that in government, as a starting point, there needs to be a compelling vison and narrative about the importance of the customer and why driving improved outcomes drives greater value for everyone.
“To build out your vision, you need to put the customer at the centre of your strategy and build everything else, including your delivery model, around it. If this customer-centric approach is going to work well, then it requires the commitment and involvement of everyone.”
From Mark’s experience, there are very different levels of organisational maturity when it comes to the customer experience across governments. He says, “Are the levels of customer satisfaction achieved good enough for the effort and cost put in? Does it meet or exceed expectations? Is the service respectful and timely? Is it driving positive sentiment?
In time, could or should the customer advocate for the quality of the service being delivered?”
“The trick in delivering such a positive service experience is to ensure it is enabled through simplicity, much less rework and duplication, greater productivity and more cost efficient.”
Mobilising the vision of the future
In Mark’s view, a truly customer-centric organisation mobilises around the vision for customer and their known drivers of satisfaction, from which you build your integrated plan for change encompassing what the service is you are going to deliver and how you are going to deliver it.
“You also need your ‘leaders to be believers’ in the vision and the strategy. This means aligning all parts of the organisation behind championing the vision and bringing it to life for the whole organisation and its partners and stakeholders.
From an international perspective, Mark points to Estonia as an example of best practice, especially in the establishment of e-Estonia, a whole of government approach to a digital society. Whilst there are other examples around the world of governments making progress in transforming levels of customer service, nobody has a Minister for Customer Service or a Department of Customer Service which NSW have clearly led the way with globally.
The role of customer insights
Alongside a vision of the future and aligning the authorising environment, customer insights need to be at the heart of decision making. Mark says you need to have a model where customer feedback and insights are collated, analysed and used to drive a culture of continuous improvement.
“Let’s understand what’s working, let’s understand what’s not working, and then fix it. And then let’s tell everybody we’ve done it. For today’s customer, needs and wants are shaped by the experiences they have with the likes of Apple, Airbnb and Netflix. Customers see no reason why the public sector can’t deliver to this same level of service.”
In this environment, feedback, insights and transparency of performance is central to the way the customer centric model works. Mark says, “It puts you in the driving seat and you stay ahead of the curve. You’re not just responding but foreshadowing trends and expectations. The customer experience is not about set and forget. It’s about acting on real time information so that your level of customer satisfaction can be maintained at high levels or continues on an upward trajectory.”
Where to start
Improving the customer experience starts with acknowledging there is room for improvement from senior leadership to those at the front-line delivering services. This focus on improving the customer experience needs to be aligned across all levels of the organisation.
“If you can join up together, the art of the possible could be game changing”, says Mark. “From a government department perspective, you need to mobilise the entire team to turn this into a reality.”
It is also about taking a human-centred approach and not simply equating customer service with digital delivery. Mark is an advocate of co-creation. “Talk to people”, he says.
“Engage within your organisation. The worst kind of change in customer service is imposed change. Your people know your customers and understand their challenges. You then fuse these insights with what your customers think and what they need. Your chances of success are significantly enhanced with this type of engagement.
Empathy is central to understanding the customer, says Mark. “It’s not simply about the technical. It’s the respect you, as an individual or business, require and the service you increasingly want. The challenge for government is turning that into reality.”