The Missing Link in Optimizing Citizen Experience

The video, below, is from the 2015 Government Transformation Forum. It’s a panel discussion about the issues and challenges of moving government services from labor-intensive, manual paper-processing operations to a “more customer-centric end-to-end self-service experience…that dramatically transform[s] the user experience and improve[s] customer satisfaction.”

The panelists do a good job describing the organizational and technological challenges associated with such a sea-change transformation. They briefly touch on the issue of change management: How do you transform the role of the employees from moving paper to knowledge workers?

Change management is raised in just about every discussion on optimizing citizen experience that I’ve read. Having employees understand how their jobs have changed is critical to the success of the transformation – but that’s just the half of it. What I’ve yet to see are discussions of how employees need to change how they think about their customer: the citizen.  That’s something that seems to be taken for granted; which will magically happen once the processes and technology have been transformed.

Let me give you an example of what I mean from personal experience: My phone company has invested probably hundreds of millions of dollars integrating and upgrading their customer service systems and processes. As part of that, customer-facing employees were provided training and scripts to follow when customers called in for service.

I had just moved to a new home and needed a second phone line. I also needed to transfer the phone number of my second line in my old home to that of my new home. When I called, I was greeted with an outpouring of charm: “How are you today, Mr. Larkin? Thank you for calling XYZ. How may I be of service today? Once we got over the pleasantries and into the purpose of my call, I was informed the phone number could not be transferred (two customer service representatives had told me earlier this was possible). Furthermore, I could choose a new number from a selection of numbers. However, they could not guarantee the number would work and, hence, I would need to call in to get a new number (which, of course, was not guaranteed to work either – I’m not making this up). By the time we got to that part of the conversation, steam was coming out of my ears. The representative clearly could tell I was frustrated as she told me: “I understand Mr. Larkin why you would be feeling frustrated.” Since none of this made sense, I asked to speak to a supervisor and was informed none were available. At that point, I decided to end the call. The representative thanked me for calling and then asked: “Have I provided you with excellent service today?” My point here is that this employee was providing exactly the same type of (poor) service she was providing before the “transformation.” The only thing that was different were the responses she was giving.

So the moral of the story is: transforming employees’ behavior and attitude towards the citizen are critical and must be an integral part of optimizing citizen experience.

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