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Five essentials to building a reliable citizen experience

What impact did the pandemic really have on digital services? We explain it all, including tips for gaining and retaining trust among citizens.

Olivia Tunhage

Olivia Tunhage 20 September 2022

Image Creating A Good Citizen Experience


    The coronavirus outbreak generated the world's largest work-from-home experiment and few organizations were prepared for its drastic consequences.

    The disruption caused by the pandemic has accelerated opportunities to reshape the workplace experience for the better.

    The pandemic has significantly increased the need for government entities at all levels to provide more information and services online, accelerating the pace of their digital transformation. At the same time, it has altered citizen needs, expectations, and priorities, making digital services the key to positive citizen experiences.

    In this article, we discuss why instilling citizen trust in digital services is important and what factors must the Government entities consider to do so.

    Why does the Government need to focus on digital services?

    Social distancing during the pandemic mandated that most citizens can avail themselves of government services at home, making digital channels one of the few sources of reliable information.

    Citizens have both become accustomed to and accepting of the use of digital channels due to the pandemic.

    With high usage, come greater expectations. Now is the time for governments to rise to this challenge with a digital service focus.

    What do citizens need to feel secure and confident?

    Whether online or offline, citizens expect services to be intuitive, reliable, secure, accessible, and personalized. Rapid access to digital information is essential to foster trust and, organizations must be able to update these instantly. The second important criterion is the increased need for support. Many people have growing questions about increasingly complex matters, and even when dealing with organizations digitally, they expect clear answers and solutions immediately.

    Delivering experiences that disseminate information quickly, and enable the agency to offer greater support is the key to improving confidence in services.

    What happens when citizens trust digital services?

    Trust is critical not only in ensuring that citizens use the digital services and channels you want them to, but also to guarantee that they are open to engaging with the Government. Once they feel confident, citizens are willing to share more data with you, leading to deeper insights. This, in turn, results in better decision-making about policies and services that meet their requirements. Trust also becomes the underlying factor for citizens to change their behavior. For instance, citizens are 9x more likely to trust a government agency if they are satisfied with its service (McKinsey, 2020).

    At a time when the trust in the Government is eroding, getting digital services right can have a positive snowball effect.

    That is, good services improve trust, which improves citizen perception and behavior.

    COVID-19: A great disruptor or a catalyst?

    Before the pandemic, most governments were on their digital service journey for many years and had succeeded in moving engagement to digital channels.

    Before COVID-19 hit, Government agencies thought that they thought they were prepared. However, nobody could have anticipated the scale of disruption it brought on.

    The pandemic shredded these presumptions apart, allowing Government to see the gaps in its digital services such as:

    • Digital services were too reliant on offline channels for engaging and serving citizens
    • Organizations lacked resources for their teams to move quickly enough and teams work in silos
    • Data was not captured centrally, the messaging did not align across channels, and no agile systems and processes could adapt quickly to communicate and deliver services
    • There was no way to tie digital interactions back into systems of record, such as CRM, marketing automation, customer service & support systems, for accurate single data sources to improve customer profiling

    Government bodies did a great initial job to get information out quickly, but the need of the hour is to focus on long-term transformation. COVID-19 has uncovered opportunities for the government, allowing them to transform and build capabilities and tools they wished for. Moreover, it has strengthened the business case to take action on years of preparation that did not get stakeholder buy-in earlier.

    Time is now ripe for these organizations to get started on their journey of building reliable digital experiences for citizens.

    5 essentials to improving citizen trust in government digital services

    Data security and privacy are absolute musts for citizen trust. A great digital experience cannot compensate for the lack of these. Besides these, the following are essential to delivering trustworthy and remarkable digital experiences.

    1. Context. The data you ask your citizens for needs to be relevant to the service you will provide.
    2. Consent & Control. Ask for consent to gather data and give them some control over how you use and store it
    3. Transparency. About why you need the data, how it will be used, who it will be shared with.
    4. Identity. This is about giving them an individual identity in the government, making it clear you know who they are, what they want, and what they need, based on the data they give you.
    5. Inclusivity. Making digital services accessible to everyone and ease of use.

    As we move into a post-pandemic reality, building reliable digital services is more of a marathon than a sprint. Citizen's appetite for faster, accurate, relevant, and trustworthy information and services is only going to increase. By meeting their needs around digital services, you will create greater trust, better engagement, and hence, improved social and financial outcomes.