Trust is an incredibly valuable community. Difficult to earn, but essential for strong relationships, especially during times of change.
Rarely (if ever) has the value of trust between government agencies and the public been as important as it was during the COVID-19 pandemic – and remains so to this day. Agencies made promises that they would keep people safe and also protect them financially and, for the most part, stayed true to their word.
As a result, the levels of trust between government agencies and the Australian public has reached an all-time high, and technology enabled agencies have been able to quickly enact a series of service transformations, especially using digital delivery.
The key questions now are: what more can be done to drive transformations that capitalise on that trust and what transformations will be necessary to keep that trust?
And it seems that regardless of what the details of that answer prove to be, the broad strokes will be digital.
Salesforce’s 2021 report Trust Imperative 2, developed in conjunction with BCG, draws a strong connection between service quality and the trust and confidence customers have in the government of the day.
The COVID-19 pandemic drove a rapid and dramatic transformation of government service delivery along digital lines
And agencies generally did a good job of it. Salesforce found that 39 per cent of Australian customers said services had improved, and that 52 per cent thought their trust in government services had increased since 2020. The link between the two was demonstrated by the approximately 90 per cent of respondents who said that the quality of their service experience influenced their trust in government – up 5 percentage points on 2020.
But there is a definite risk for agencies that fail to continue on their digital journeys, with over 90 per cent of customers saying they expected digital government services to be as good as – or better than – the best online government services in the world, while 20 per cent wanted digital government services to be of a similar standard to those offered by commercial digital leaders.
Furthermore, 76 per cent said they expected government services to be tailored to their individual circumstances to some degree, and around 70 per cent were willing to share personal data to achieve this – provided the benefits and safeguards are communicated clearly and it made their lives easier.
It is here that the connection between customer satisfaction and trust is clear. Delivering exceptional services requires personalisation, but being able to deliver personalised service requires being able to work with personal data – and that takes trust. Lose the trust, and you lose permission to work with customer data to personalise the service, and your ability to satisfy customer requirements is weakened. That leads to inferior services, which further diminishes trust.
On the flipside however, Salesforce’s 2021 report showed that that improved service quality generated greater trust in government, creating a virtuous circle of trust, data sharing, better service delivery, and improved service quality.
One of the key factors in maintaining high levels of trust is transparency.
This has already come to be well understood by many players in the commercial world, but also holds true in the public sector.
The Salesforce report found that 49 per cent of respondents were concerned that their personal information could be used by government agencies without their consent, and 44 per cent said they were worried that data would be used in a way that did not serve their best interests. Proof of either outcome would immediately diminish their trust.
Critical here is the customer’s comfort with how their data is used outside of the agency that first collected it:
- While 17 percent of A/NZ respondents expressed willingness for access to data to be shared, 50 percent were only willing to share data related to a specific service or domain if it made their life better.
- Approximately 25 percent would only share the bare minimum, while 7 per cent said they would not permit data sharing at all.
This shows an incredibly wide spectrum of permissions, and a significant potential for breach of trust should the desires of any one group be ignored.
We were fortunate in some ways that the pandemic struck when it did, when government agencies had relatively strong digital capabilities, and consumers had access to the broadband infrastructure needed to use them. But as the most recent lockdown in Victoria has shown however, we live in uncertain times, and while agencies have mostly managed through the crises, it is difficult to know what lies ahead.
What we do know, however, is that people’s expectations for service quality are always rising. And so while it might be vital to invest in digital service delivery in preparation for the next major crises, it is also important to continue investing to ensure citizen expectations are met or exceeded – especially if governments wish to maintain the levels of trust they have created.
By surveying almost 3,000 customers and interviewing 24 government leaders and independent experts from across A/NZ, the findings published in Trust Imperative 2 reveal the important relationship between trust, data sharing, and the personalisation of services. Download the BCG x Salesforce report here.