It was truly a breakthrough in human communication when the telegram was invented in 1844. It provided the first and only way for a message to be shared faster than a boat or a horse.

Today, there are dozens of ways that people can communicate with one another. Governments must ensure that where citizens wish to be heard, public officials are there to listen. This is the first step to designing public services that truly meet citizens’ needs.

Malcolm Koh, Director, CX Practice, Global Customer Engagement at Zendesk shares how governments can personalise their services. He also discusses how automation and AI can help strengthen the relationship between governments and citizens.

What do personalised citizen services look like? 

The foundation of personalised services is understanding and staying connected to citizens’ needs, Koh says. From there, governments can create effective policies and gain the trust of the community.

One aspect of personalisation is ensuring that citizens don’t have to repeat themselves or be passed from one department to another when interacting with the government, he highlights.

This can be addressed with a platform to gain “access to a single view” of the relevant communications, Koh explains. By combining interactions from email, messaging apps and more, public sector staff are in the best position to provide informed and personalised support.

Analysing “trends in channel volume, types and complexity of queries and keyword phrases”, will help, he adds. By identifying the popular channels of communication, or the common times where citizens call, governments can assign manpower and technology where most needed.

By combining personalised services with a seamless communication system, governments will be set to provide personalised service no matter where or how citizens are contacting them, Koh summarises.

3 steps for creating personalised services 

There are three key principles that governments should incorporate for greater personalisation, Koh says. Firstly, it should be easy for citizens to reach out and give feedback to governments.

Governments need to “take stock of their existing touchpoints”, ensuring all pathways for citizen communication are effective. They will benefit as working with citizens earns their trust and makes problem solving a team effort, Koh explains.

Secondly, governments must provide the right digital tools, resources and processes to their employees. When staff are properly equipped, “they feel empowered to do their best work”, he says. Citizens will benefit from the knock-on effects of this, he adds.

Thirdly, sharing citizen feedback across an agency will inform decision-making, driving better citizen engagement. “Nothing impedes great citizen experience more than data silos,” says Koh. Data sharing should be established even with employees working from home, he highlights.

Singapore is a good example of these principles in action. Citizen outreach was enhanced when the government began reassessing its digital-centric services at the beginning of the pandemic. This is why the nation serves as a “global model of digital transformation”, he continues.

The challenges holding back citizen experiences

The success and failure of citizen experiences relies on what’s happening in the government workplace. One area where governments can improve is the adoption of automation and AI in the workplace.

“Nothing kills team efficiency and morale like forcing employees to do work that could be automated,” says Koh. Automation allows for staff to invest their time into more complex and meaningful interactions with citizens.

AI makes citizen self-service more accessible, he adds. Chatbots, for example, can provide assistance around the clock. If a human staff member is needed, bots are also capable of handing over the tasks and related data seamlessly, Koh highlights.

Another common challenge that governments face is a lack of collaboration, says Koh.

According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2021, almost half of agents in APAC believe that collaboration across internal teams is an important factor in doing their job well. And yet, the same number believe they don’t have the right tools to do this.

While a government service might be as simple as a question and answer, its structure relies on established processes in the public sector workplace. With greater adoption of automation, AI and communication platforms, citizens can expect more personalised services in the future.

To learn more about how to design personalised citizen services, catch up on the Citizen-centric Innovation panel from the Festival of Innovation here.