When’s the last time you had your driver’s licence renewed? For me, it was just before Christmas, when I realised I was preparing to head away on a family road trip with a licence that was set to expire.

During my lunch break, I went to an AA store, filled out the licence renewal form, had an eye test, and a new photo taken. The whole process took 20 minutes and cost $43.90. A few days later — and just in time for me to hit the road — the licence arrived in the mail.

It was a surprisingly painless, once-in-a-decade experience — a basic government service delivered via a private sector partner with professionalism, at a reasonable price, and the minimum amount of hassle. The question is, how can we enable all government services to become this straightforward?

At Datacom, we talk a lot with our private sector customers about the customer experience (CX) mindset.

In the competitive world of retail, for instance, delivering a seamless customer experience can make the difference between a shopper following through with a purchase, or leaving the site, with unpurchased products still in their cart.

Citizens using public services can’t just surf away as the government is the only game in town. However, a bad citizen experience with a public agency can have more serious repercussions. It could lead to a citizen missing out on crucial care services or facing fines or penalties for missing payment deadlines. Ultimately, a poor experience in the public sector can erode trust in public services.

We transfer our expectations between private and public sector experiences. The relentless focus on CX and the customer journey in the private sector have raised the bar radically in terms of what citizens expect from government agencies.

Citizen-centric government

The key is understanding and adapting to the citizen’s ever-changing needs. That requires public sector agencies to treat citizens as more than just data points. They need to design their services around them, listen to their needs, discover the pain points in their citizen journeys, and act on their feedback. Here, technology and digital channels have a valuable role to play in interpreting needs and reducing the friction in engaging with government services.

The tools are already there to deliver secure, private, and flexible public services affordably.

But it isn’t just about designing better online forms or launching fancy chatbots. In some cases, such as in the delivery of social services and healthcare, making room for the human may involve more rather than less face-to-face contact with government officials or caseworkers.

Our lives are often complicated and messy. If you're dealing with a family grievance or have just lost your job, the last thing you want to deal with is faceless bureaucracy or automated processes that lack compassion or discretion.

The ideal government agency customer experience should provide immediate and seamless delivery of services through digital touchpoints, getting citizens what they need, when they need it, and freeing up staff with empathetic capacity to spend time with the people who need their assistance the most when it matters the most.

If we really strive to understand our citizens’ needs and expectations when dealing with the public sector, we can design services to overcome the common problems they face, improve their satisfaction, increase transparency in the process, and, ultimately, deliver public services more efficiently.

The goal and pay off from good CX implementation is the same in both the private and public sector — a better experience for the end user, and a more efficient use of human resources, leaving staff to do what they do best and provide a humanised experience to those who most need it.

Making room for the human — what we can do now

  • Learn from private sector CX leaders and world-class public sector projects — from New Zealand and abroad — to develop better CX approaches, practices, and cultures
  • Harness automation technologies to improve efficiency in business processes so we can free up resource to deliver better service with the personal touch to those who need it most
  • Unify the customer experience across government so citizens are comfortable using a wide range of government services
  • Design and deploy technology to gather ongoing, high-quality feedback from citizens, allowing public agencies to understand and adapt to the ever-changing citizen needs and journeys, identify pain points and resolve them with agile product teams.


Greg is head of customer experience at Datacom. His key focus has been identifying pain points and opportunities alongside the rational and emotional cues for moving customers through a process from awareness to consideration to engagement to long-term loyalty.

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