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Thursday, 19 November 2020 09:52

The growing importance of effective digital experiences in government

Peter Belton, Vice President Sales Australia and New Zealand SITECORE Peter Belton, Vice President Sales Australia and New Zealand SITECORE

GUEST OPINON by Peter Belton, Vice President Sales Australia and New Zealand, SITECORE:   Forced to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic fallout while also delivering regular services to citizens, Australian governments at all levels are realising the importance of delivering first-rate digital experiences.

This realisation comes at a time when citizens are relying on governments more than ever before. Everything from income and business support payments to security and movement controls have been added to the traditional list of expectations.

The way in which citizens are interacting with government has also changed. Where once people may have been happy to visit a service centre or office, now the vast majority of interactions are taking place either by phone or online. Paper processes are also being rapidly replaced with digital equivalents.

Unfortunately, many customers find inconsistent experiences when using different channels for communication and interaction with government departments and agencies. Often, they have to provide the same information multiple times or spend hours figuring out the best point of contact.

This is not to say that no progress has yet been made by governments when it comes to delivering strong customer experiences. Departments such as the Australian Tax Office have done much to digitise processes and streamline dealings.

However, a recent conducted by research firm Ecosystm on behalf of Sitecore found the public sector has a lesser focus on customer centricity than firms in the financial and retail sectors. Many are yet to treat customer experience as a priority and thus are lagging organisations in other areas.

The survey found that, of those in the public sector polled, 56% nominated customer engagement as a key business goal during the next 12 months. Also, 34% pointed to risk management and 33% to digital transformation as their key area of focus.

Across all industry sectors, 36% of those surveyed nominated driving business growth as their top goal for the coming 12 months. This was followed by cost management (35%) and leveraging technology (33%).

Customer engagement channels

When it comes to the ways customers interact with governments, the survey found some interesting aspects. Websites are by far the most important channel for governments and were nominated by 92% of those polled, up from 85% in 2019. The next most important channel is social media, nominated by 57% and up from 41% last year.

Meanwhile, and not unexpectedly in-person interactions in outlets or service centres has dipped. It was nominated by 34% of respondents, down from 44% in 2019.

These results emphasise the importance of the website as a key communication channel. Those government departments and agencies that continue to deliver strong levels of service in coming years will be those that invest in their online presence and make it as intuitive as possible for citizens to use.

Reaching digital maturity

Information gathered during the research also allowed direct comparison between surveyed organisations of the stage they have reached in their journey to digital maturity. Sitecore’s Digital Experience Maturity Model was used to place each into one of five categories:

1. Established where there is no personalisation of communication materials and only a limited number of digital channels are used

2. Aligned in which content is created to target the needs of the main customer groupings but there is still no personalisation

3. Optimised when customer experience management is seen as a high priority and there has been a shift from gut-level to data-driven decision making

4. Nurtured where the customer base has been segmented for personalisation and a culture of experimentation is highly supported

5. Individualised which is the optimal category where every customer interaction is personalised and automated.

Among Australian organisations, just 1% achieved the category of ‘individualised’. This was followed by 22% in the ‘nurtured’ category, 44% in ‘optimised’, 29% in ‘aligned’ and 4% in ‘established’. This confirms that, even though progress has been made, there is still much work that needs to be done to improve digital experiences.

Australia’s results map well against those of the entire ASEAN region. Of the total survey group, 3% were in the individualised category followed by 22 in nurtured, 44% in optimised, 26% in aligned, and 6% in established.

Overall, there are encouraging signs that organisations understand the need to improve their digital experiences and are making the investments required for this to become reality.

As Australia and the world slowly recovers from the heavy impact of the virus and returns to growth mode, those organisations – in both the public and private sectors - that make the most effort in this area will be best positioned to perform.

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