Channel of choice: the consumer imperative for government

Consumers now expect government services to be where they want, when they want. For organisations, that means developing a collaborative multi-channel strategy and service offering is more important than ever.

On any given day across Australia, millions of consumers are faced with simple but important choices when making a transaction: what will be the simplest, fastest and most effective way of getting something done?

It’s usually a relatively easy choice for people to make.

But for service providers and businesses that must guarantee provision of a service channel, maintaining availability and uptime amid heavy traffic and workloads remains one of the single biggest operational and financial challenges.

Australia Post offers end-to-end digital services.

It’s an issue that can make-or-break relationships with customers, especially when expectations diverge, and aren’t able to be met quickly enough.

Over the last 15 years, banks, merchants, utilities and government agencies have gradually migrated the bulk of their transactions online all while trying to juggle how they maintain a shopfront service.

For many retailers, like music shops, video stores and anyone who sells electronic gadgets, the march of the internet has largely replaced main-street outlets.

That’s great if you’re downloading a movie. But there’s still plenty of business we want to do face to face, especially if it’s with the government.

Multichannel: what you want, where you want, how you want.

Customer touch-points: the big picture

For banks, which once pursued an almost purist online dream, the retail experience has more recently returned strongly as a point of difference for customer service where sometimes a concierge meets and greets you at the door.

As innovative retailers invest substantially in ‘experiential’ service design focused on making customers feel valued, the contrast between organisations propping-up segregated online and retail models and those reinventing themselves gets sharper every year.

For government agencies that require regular interaction with consumers and clients, there’s now a much wider spectrum of what people want — mostly influenced by external factors. That means that getting channel strategy right by successfully managing and fulfilling expectations is more important than ever.

Turbocharging consumers’ emboldened attitude is the influence of social media that can catapult channel outages, service glitches or waiting time blowouts into national news stories that burn for weeks in just minutes.

No agency ever wants its name associated with #fail.

Add the implicit expectation of trust that goes with government transactions and it’s not difficult to see why many agencies and service providers are prudently assessing their options rather than going for the cheapest and easiest solution.

The fact that interacting with government is frequently a requirement rather than a choice only serves to amplify that consideration and the feelings customers have towards agencies and government transactions.

Inclusion is everything: no wrong door

When it comes to measuring the expectations of customers of businesses and government, it’s no surprise that convenience is king and the popularity of online transactions remains high, with a 2016 Australia Post eGov insights paper finding that an overwhelming 94% of Australians want all government services online.

Yet what’s more illuminating is that 70% of respondents from the same study sample said they still want the choice of an in-person experience, a finding that demonstrates that online channels alone don’t provide the full customer experience that’s expected.

It’s a serious issue for government service providers and agencies given they must carefully balance the substantial costs of maintaining stand-alone retail outlets or offices over the rising use of online channels.

A further challenge is the growing expectation that in-person services will be located nearby or in convenient locations close to other civic or retail amenities, like public transport, shopping precincts or workplaces.

Put simply, it’s a paradox.

Reach makes the big difference

But it’s also an opportunity that places highly trusted multi-channel service provider Australia Post in the unique position of being able to deliver online transactions and physical services across the nation in the secure, familiar and convenient manner that customers now expect.

Australia Post’s electronic and digital services — including identity verification, electronic document delivery, payments and key transactions like motor registry services and licensing — have been leading digital service delivery for many years.

However it’s the unsurpassed reach of Australia Post’s network of more than 4000 retail post offices offices, including 2500 in regional and remote areas, that gives the organisation crucial scale that allows Australians to access services how they want, where they want, when they want.

Better still, the availability of Australia Post’s integrated multi-channel network of services — whether it’s paying a bill, applying for a passport or obtaining a National Police Check for an employer or to work with children — means that consumers have more equitable, convenient and assured access in the greatest possible number of locations.

This high level of access is especially important in helping to eliminate disparities between metropolitan and regional areas.
Public value is also increased when government customers can not only reduce costs, but enhance customer experience and engagement while making complex workflows more efficient.

In many cases, government organisations that use Australia Post’s scaleable service channels and its wider eco system are empowered to redirect limited funds to pressing consumer and community objectives

And they can do so in a way that’s been proven to fit in with community expectations of easily accessible, friendly and fast customer service in the places people need and want them.

National Police Checks: a case in point

As an organisation that has always placed trust, privacy and security at the very top of its operating model, it stands to reason Australia Post has become the provider of choice for some of the most critical and sensitive safeguards in the Australian community today: National Police Checks.

In an age when it’s accepted that staff at childcare centres, schools, community groups and carers for the elderly, disabled and vulnerable – not to mention many everyday jobs — should be vetted in the interests of safety, the process of routine checking needs to be as efficient and affordable as it is robust.

Today, Australia Post conducts more than 5 million identity checks a year, a service it’s provided for more than 30 years.

For National Police Check applicants, that means being able to easily submit forms and documents at a place that suits them, including online. But it also means being able to receive the result of checks in both electronic and physical documents to pass on to those with a duty of care.

If an applicant has all of their documentation together, online submissions literally happen straight away, with applicants able to share their verified results instantly.

It’s particularly important for people who have moved interstate or across jurisdictions because of family, work or personal circumstances. In the past obtaining police check documentation from states or
territories where a volunteer or job applicant had previously lived could take weeks or months, often excluding them from a position.

The cost of obtaining such documentation was also a burden on both the applicant and potential employer or community organisation because it diminished the pool of talent.

But most importantly, the ability to easily conduct National Police Checks has meant that community protection has been enhanced because it is now easily accepted by both organisations and applicants that an individual’s criminal background — or lack of one — is both quick and transparent across borders.

There’s an important deterrence factor too, as offenders who pose a risk start to readily understand that their swift detection is a certainty rather than a chance.

Today the price of a National Police Check through Australia Post is $49.90, or $39.90 for a volunteer certificate.

The true value of easily accessible and affordable transparency within the community and workplace can only be far larger.