Blazing a digital trail in government: the GovCX Awards


The Boston Consulting Group has launched the GovCX Awards, a new competition which aims to identify and celebrate the best in digital government services around the world.

GovCX is a first-of-its-kind global initiative designed to acknowledge and celebrate governments that offer their citizens the best possible digital experience. At BCG, we want to showcase the great work in digital customer experience (CX) from governments around the world, celebrate the achievement of the people behind them, and inspire others to follow in their footsteps.

Here, we sit down with Gerd Schenkel, a member of the GovCX judging panel, to discuss the issues surrounding digital government, its challenges and opportunities. A former consultant at BCG, Gerd worked in financial services and, for the last 10 years, has worked exclusively in digital. He launched Ubank for National Australia Bank, Telstra Digital for Telstra which was part of the digital transformation for Telstra.

More recently he has been providing consulting services to a broad range of clients including government in various roles as a client, supplier and also more recently as a member of the taskforce for the Australian Federal Treasurer for digitisation of the SME sector.


How much does delivering a great digital customer experience matter and why?

The experience in the digital world matters a lot more than elsewhere for a couple of reasons. It’s far more measurable and the experience is really what drives adoption and repeat use in particular.

This is very important for any commercial service but for government in particular because governments tend to be monopoly providers. And it’s particularly important to have a good experience because of the importance of those services and the adoption. One of the opportunities for government is to be more accessible 24/7 in the digital world with no wait time. If the experience is rubbish on the first attempt, people go back to clogging the waiting lines. So for governments it’s even more important than for commercial services to have a really good experience online.

Based on your experience and the work that you’ve done, what do you think a great digital customer experience looks and feels like?

I think of a digital experience in at least two parts. The first part is the utility, so does it work? Is the function that you’re looking for actually available and is it functioning right? Then there is the emotional effect that an experience actually creates. And in some ways that’s more important because the emotional effect determines the satisfaction of the user, it determines whether they come back and also determines whether they become an advocate and therefore drive further adoption in their circle.

Which companies do you think set the benchmark for best practice in citizen experience?

Expectation tends to be set by global platforms. So it’s just a fact that consumers learned what is available on the internet and otherwise from Facebook, Google. eBay, PayPal, all those kind of players. I don’t think is one player who is good at everything. There are sort of peak performances that you can find in different places.

What would it take to shift governments from the mindset of being so time and budget conscious more than anything else?

I think it’s a measurement problem where people measure the cost of the project and they say the project needs to be within that budget. But you need to look at the entire cost of the experience. So if an experience means people call a lot and every call costs $10 or $15 then that needs to be taken into account. And therefore I think, on balance, just a history of these kind of projects, we tend to undervalue a good experience financially.

What traps have you seen organisations fall into when it comes to CX? And how can they avoid them?

A big one is confusing the traditional hierarchy with decision-making around experience. Sometimes it’s a mistake for project teams to escalate design decisions to more senior people to make decisions. Simply because they’re not as qualified and they’re not as close to this project and the customer.

So in a project team, if you have multiple projects running in parallel and if there’s no trust and empowerment, then there is a tendency for too much escalation of design decisions to more senior people. Which means the decisions will be a lot worse because you have someone who’s not qualified effectively determining the experience out of context.

The other thing is there is the project and then there is the time afterwards. I’ve seen a lot, especially with high pressure projects, there is so much focus on the launch that there is no time given to what happens afterwards.

What is one piece of advice that you’d give to governments that really want to lift their game in good CX?

There is a bit of a mindset question where, in my experiences with government, they tend to self-limit sometimes just because of the history. People who work in government aren’t less qualified, I find, than elsewhere. They’re just as qualified, sometimes more so. It’s just a little bit harder for them sometimes to get stuff done. And I think over the time they kind of get a little bit downbeat and they kind of limit their ambition a little bit.

So I would say stop thinking about yourself as government. Stop thinking of yourself as a monopoly provider.

Why not aim for something amazing? And I think the GovCX awards could potentially help produce this by encouraging governments to be aiming very, very high. Why wouldn’t governments be the best experiences in the country, for example? I think that’s the mindset that we need.

Do you have any predictions about where digital government services are going to go?

Firstly, the scale is so huge, the benefits are so vast, that I have no doubt that the majority of government services will be delivered in a digital world. There’s no doubt about it.

The other thing, though, is that because it’s the government, governments have to serve everybody and therefore there will be a long tail of people and preferences and activities that will have to be in a service centre. That’s a little bit difficult because you’re going to have a disproportionate portion of the cost sitting in that long tail. And that means that metrics such as average costs per transactions are kind of useless because you’re going to have, for example, a billion transactions at zero cost on a marginal basis and you have 10,000 at a cost of a thousand dollars each.

But overall, the cost of providing services should be dramatically lower in the next five years or so because of just the vast benefits provided. Who wants to go into a store during the hours of nine and five? It’ll be so much better if you can do everything 24/7 online with some support. So I think it’ll be this polarisation but vast drop off budgets. But on a per transaction basis, you’ll have some transactions that are very, very costly. And that’s just what it is.

This article first appeared at the Centre for Public Impact.

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