At the Dawn of E-Government: The Citizen as Customer

By Breen, Jeff | Government Finance Review, October 2000 | Go to article overview

At the Dawn of E-Government: The Citizen as Customer


Breen, Jeff, Government Finance Review


This article displays the results of a survey of top management in state-level governments around the world and highlights how those governments are using electronic government to improve customer service.

Editor's note: This article is reprinted and adapted with permission from Deloitte Research. For a copy of the full report, contact Deloitte Research publications at www.dttus.com/PUB/ggovt/gegovt.htm

Here at the beginning of the 21st century, governments at all levels find themselves armed with more tools to serve their citizens than at any other time in history. The explosive entry of technology into every facet of life has changed how people live, how they work, how companies do business--and how governments serve their constituents. The result is the emergence of e-government.

To explore how state-level governments are positioned to enter this new era, Deloitte Research launched a comprehensive global research initiative that focuses on their approaches to customer service. This study provides a top-management perspective from more than 250 state-level government departments in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Historically, citizens' perception of government service has been less than glowing. When they think about the prospect of contacting the government in almost any way, they picture long waits and cumbersome procedures. The experience of interacting with government is nearly always foreseen as a frustrating chore. Today, leading governments are changing both that perception and the reality by giving top priority to the customer when undertaking service enhancement initiatives. They do not change just for the sake of change; they do it to give more value-for-service to their customers.

Customer Centric Government

For this study, we classified governments as either "customer-centric" (those that make concerted efforts to leverage taxes to increase customer satisfaction) or "non-customer-centric" (those that do not). We found that customer-centric governments achieve much greater success in a number of critical performance areas. Overall, the customer-centric governments achieve nearly 50 percent more success in providing easier customer access, increasing service volume, getting better information on operations, reducing employee complaints, reducing employee time spent on non-customer activities, and improving their own image.

How do these organizations make the customer-centric approach pay these dividends? The key is to take a long-term, enterprise-wide view of how they can improve operations to fulfill customer needs. This manifests itself in the way they refocus their business operations around a comprehensive customer service strategy and how they leverage technology and people to execute it. To customer-centric governments, enhancing customer service means breaking down obsolete structures and the "silo" thinking that has long characterized the way governments have operated (departments working independently to meet their own goals instead of together to coordinate customer interfaces and services). Successful organizations are able to reward their customers with better service and themselves with lower costs -- doing more, and better, for less.

Within customer-centric governments, personnel and service goals are better aligned. This can be clearly seen in the area of hiring and training, where staff members are given more customer service training and greater decision-making authority. Customer-centric governments also are able to apply technology to make a smooth transition to e-government. While across-the-board use of technology today is primarily focused on information sharing, more and more customer-centric governments are embracing Internet technologies to track customer information and link their legacy systems, integrating technology across several functions. The next step is to increase the value of customer self-service and the two-way flow of information. …

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