Citizens have high expectations when it comes to government service delivery. That’s the message coming through loud and clear from PwC’s latest Citizen Survey gauging experiences with government services.
The survey found that governments are heading in the right direction when it comes to meeting citizens’ needs. The government’s effort in digitising services is having a positive impact, and they can maintain this momentum by promoting engagement, supporting digital inclusion and, ultimately, fostering trust.
However, better services are driving higher expectations and citizens are less likely to agree that Australian government institutions are exceeding expectations than they were 18 months ago (22%, down from 30% in June 2020).
But the very fact that citizens know what they want presents a huge opportunity for governments to satisfy them. Our research suggests engagement, digital inclusion and consolidation are the next wave of opportunities.
What, specifically, do citizens want?
Even more engagement and responsiveness
Citizens are seeking responsive governments. When it comes to using government services, 81% of citizens expect their requests to be resolved in a single interaction. Meanwhile, more than 85% have told us that speed, simplicity, convenience, transparency and security are important to them. They also want to be actively involved.
70% of surveyed Australians want to engage in the development of government services.
One in five want to be personally informed of service development plans and progress, and one in three want the ability to access information about service development plans if desired. This holds across federal, state and local governments. And this is key to maintaining trust.
The survey revealed that citizens who give feedback have significantly higher overall trust in government institutions, as do citizens who receive a reply from government outlining ‘next steps’.
In response, governments don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Instead, they can optimise existing knowledge and capabilities within government systems to boost engagement and responsiveness.
Practically speaking, this means embedding feedback by design mechanisms, mining data for feedback trends, using AI to boost efficiency, leveraging the private network (e.g. accountants and lawyers) to help with responsiveness, and fostering a feedback ecosystem.
Sustained focus on inclusion and trust
The government’s digital investment is paying off and citizens’ digital experiences with government institutions are generally good. Almost half of respondents (48%) agree that digitisation of COVID-19 vaccination certificates, for instance, has positively impacted their perceptions of government services.
Crucially, digital services are making many people feel connected. At a time when people are feeling isolated, 43% of people agree that digital services can combat this.
However, there’s still room for improvement.
Digital progress is slower in regional areas, for example, where the rate of uptake lags metropolitan areas (34% versus 43%), and only 14% of regional residents say their digital experiences have been better compared to pre-COVID conditions (versus 23% for metropolitan residents).
Citizens need to be empowered to up-skill in digital, especially those excluded from the workforce, and a tailored approach is needed to recognise the unique challenges in the regions.
Similarly, data security remains a priority. Almost 80% of citizens expect government to use and store personal data ethically and securely, but only 38% are more comfortable sharing their data online than attending government services in person.
While working to improve security, governments can better communicate the level of protection provided, in order to bring everyone along on the digital journey.
Consolidation of services
Less is more when it comes to digital service offerings. Citizens are showing signs of overload.
For instance, we found citizens are using a range of channels to access services (the average interaction requires 1.5 channels per person), and 46% believe the increased range of channels makes the process of accessing government services more confusing than ever before (up from 40% in June 2020).
Within those channels, 37% find it difficult to navigate government services now that more processes are digital.
There is, however, a demographic divide when it comes to opinions around navigation for instance, younger citizens, residents of NSW, and those who are full-time employed are more likely to report ‘easy’ navigation.
Also, we’re seeing hyper-localisation and complexity in the ecosystem, where the degree of trust in levels of government differs markedly between citizens in different geographic areas.
While governments are already working hard to foster trust, there’s a need to consolidate brands, channels, information, messaging, and sources of truth, and to integrate these elements in response to hyper-localisation.
At the same time, the government should cast a critical eye over legacy channels, apps and services, and delete any that are outmoded to create a seamless experience for all citizens.
To meet citizens’ high expectations around service delivery, governments must continue to promote engagement, prioritise responsiveness, guarantee security and foster trust. Above all, however, they must focus on inclusion.
Digital delivery must deliver for all.