Public sector organisations are under increasing pressure to improve the quality and delivery of their customer service as customer expectations grow, despite facing financial cuts.

According to a new report from the Institute of Customer Service, a ‘shared vision’ is needed if improvements are to be successful and for the UK public sector to achieve its ambitious goal of being viewed as a world leader.

The key conclusions of the report include:

  • Rising customer expectations and demands need to be met, but financial pressure poses significant challenges for public sector organisations.
  • Leaders across the public sector say that improving customer service is a central strategic objective, but this needs to be done in such a way that it improves customer outcomes while also reducing inefficiencies.
  • Investing in customer service strategy is seen as key to continuing to meet rising customer expectations in a sustainable, world-class way.

Jo Causon, CEO Institute of Customer Service; said:

“We have entered a critical period of change for the public sector. In a context of economic pressures and rising demand, many organisations in the public face painful choices about how to maintain levels and quality of service, as well as plan for future requirements.”

The public sector is one the lowest performing sectors in the Institute’s bi-yearly UK Customer Satisfaction Index, with listening to customer insights being identified as a key area to focus on for improvement. This is especially important when you consider that 28% of customers, who experience a problem when dealing with a public sector organisation, don’t report it as a complaint, primarily due to feeling that it wouldn’t make any difference.

So what can the public sector learn from the private sector?

In a tough economic and competitive market, businesses in the private sector are using their customer service as a key competitive differentiator. Offering customers a consistent multi-channel customer service is now key to winning and retaining customers, giving businesses an incentive to improve standards.

Key areas for development:

  • Consistency – joining-up department silos: Breaking down information and customer service silos between departments, agencies and existing partnerships in the public sector is key to providing a consistent customer experience. A centralised and shared knowledge management solution will ensure that the same information is given to customers across all contact channels, helping to improve satisfaction rates.
  • Lower costs and raise efficiency: During financial cuts, the pressure to reduce any additional expenditure or to show a return on any investment is a real challenge. Investment in the right online customer service technology however can result in significant cost savings, reducing inbound customer contact and improving contact centre efficiency.
  • Customer insight: Customer complaints and feedback provide vital insight into areas for improvement. Offering customers and staff on the frontline dealing with customer complaints a mechanism to suggest improvement, and regularly analysing this information, enables organisations to optimise their service offering, helping towards meeting regulatory guidelines. Showing you have acted and responded to feedback lets the customer and team members know you are listening to them and that they are of value rather than a hindrance.

Whilst public sector budgets are lowering, customer’s expectations for instant, 24/7 customer service are rising and the ability to provide a cost effective service across multiple channels has never been more crucial.