Infrastructure > Cloud

What does ‘customer-centricity’ mean for local government?

Published 12 July 2017

Gavin Mee, senior vice president, enterprise and Head of UK at Salesforce, explores how the public sector can follow the private sector’s lead in providing touchpoints for citizens


In an increasingly connected world, the way we interact with private companies and service providers has fundamentally changed. From mobile apps and social media through to cloud technology and online portals, customers have more touchpoints than ever.

Customer engagement has changed. These days if you can’t order your coffee from an app while on your way to the shop, you’re already feeling disappointed. We no longer accept waiting. Customers can now remotely access services at any time and from any and multiple devices. On the whole, they love the convenience. Who wouldn’t?

Businesses also benefit from these new forms of engagement, and can offer an improved level of customer experience. Think of all those tailored offers on Facebook, and the rapid twitter responses to service issues –  these communication channels are not only pleasing customers, they’re opening up new revenue streams through those channels.

So if private companies are grabbing this connected customer opportunity - why isn’t the public sector engaging in a similar way?

The legacy burden

While most local authorities would love nothing more than to adopt new and more efficient service delivery models, it’s often easier said than done. Public sector organisations haven’t always benefited from the same level of IT investment as their private sector counterparts. Many are still using legacy systems that can’t run modern software; customer information is stored in silos, making the delivery of a connected customer experience challenging.

Replacing systems often results in high costs and disruption to public services. Now, thanks to modern technology like artificial intelligence , this is starting to change. Predictive intelligence apps accessed via the cloud can now analyse customer data instantly and can use this information to make customer service more efficient.

Data driven

Of course, it’s not just AI that is data dependent: Data is the bedrock of the modern customer experience. Digital services in the public sector need to foster meaningful engagement and enhance communications across the board for everyone. Local authorities have developed a treasure trove of information on the citizens they serve -  and can use that “treasure” to create the insights that allow them to better understand their ‘customers’ when they engage with them, providing a better service.

Good news: it’s already happening

A number of local authorities are innovating and already developing more efficient service models.   Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC) is one of them. In just a few short years it has overhauled its infrastructure across a range of services and moved them to the cloud.

This development was the result of research by the council, which found that the most successful private sector companies are those that place high importance on listening to and understanding their citizens. In anticipation of their needs, they tailor products or services for a personalised experience to ensure that the customer feels important. This approach is the key to success for the public sector too, creating a more holistic, customer-centric solution and opening up new revenue streams.

For AVDC, having a platform to build and run digital services on has also allowed the council to free up staff time. Employees are now able to focus on other areas, such as their ‘people’s lottery’- helping them to support local initiatives they previously had no bandwidth for.

Employee innovation

Improving systems for better service delivery doesn’t only benefit customers. With cloud-based technology and mobile applications, employees can also become empowered with the tools to work smarter. For example, things such as task management, issues reporting and coordinating a workforce in real-time can be game-changers. Council officers who are out working in the field can be notified of problems immediately and will be able to respond in turn without having the need to go back to the office.

Apps are one of the most powerful tools when it comes to delivering innovation and there are certainly many other great examples of them enabling greater efficiency in mobile staff. For example, at Peterborough City Council , a cloud-based app is enabling remote workers to share and access data in only a few taps, instead of having to root through notebooks and printouts. The result is that the Council is able to deliver a superior ‘on-the-spot’ service to citizens with real-time access to citizen information.

Everyone’s a winner

While local authorities do face many challenges on multiple fronts, those who are able to rise above them and follow the example of AVDC and Peterborough City Council in using technology to innovate and streamline their services will surely offer a better experience to citizens. And this is the point. So whether you’re a small rural council or a multinational corporation, your goal now is the same:  delivering an always-improving customer experience, and ensuring that your customers -- public or private -- get exceptional engagement every time.

Gavin Mee is senior vice president, enterprise and Head of UK at Salesforce

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