How to Delight Customers Through Public-Private Partnerships


Customer service innovation in government will benefit the ongoing digital transformation in government.

Teresa A. Weipert is senior vice president of Sutherland Government Solutions.

A key function of government is to address citizen constituent needs. Fulfilling those needs requires implementing innovative and cost-effective services through the public sector’s digital transformation. The goal of citizen service is to provide faster, flexible and more responsive performance in critical mission programs.

Partnering with the private sector has proven to be a good channel for innovation and helps deliver best commercial practices for agencies. This collaboration allows for fiscal accountability and provides a vehicle for efficient and fruitful programs.

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In any vertical—health care, national security, transportation or educationa starting point for innovation can be in public/private partnering for citizen services. In commercial markets, the pressure is to win, maintain and expand market share while delighting customers with excellent customer service. This same level of pressure is on governments today with the goals of excellent response and effective resolution of any issue.

When people think of innovation leading to operational success, the development and deployment of cost-saving, cutting-edge technology solutions first come to mind. One benefit of major commercial investments in the private sector is that the technology for customer services is much more effective than it was just a few years ago.

New proficiencies, especially in the areas of automaton, digital technology solutions, and business process solutions have changed the operational performance landscape in the private sector. Now, the public sector is also ready to benefit from innovation.

One example of the emerging change is in customer service centers for federal agencies. New, innovative managed service offerings allow real-time monitoring, tools and techniques to handle calls with fewer resources and better quality.

Via state-of-the-art, omni-channel contact tools, avatars for phone, email, web and mobility, and algorithm-generated software self-service tools, agents and management become knowledgeable quickly and respond and manage all customer requests.

Other examples of government practices where industry innovation is making a difference include transaction processing, front and back office management, and document management. Specifically, “worker assist tools,” such as robotic processing automation and analytics, can make the job more manageable, predictable and scalable.

Of course, technology is an integral component of the innovation trend in citizen services, but people and processes are the other parts of the equation. Even though we are now in the digital age, people, not machines, still need to provide services to other people.

Interpersonal communications do still matter to resolve issues and bring customers satisfaction. Training augmented by thinking through and designing processes for those who address citizen needs is a component of digital innovation. Industry has tested and experienced the various mixes of automation and personal connections and can offer government guidelines for best commercial practices.

Customer service innovation in government will benefit the ongoing digital transformation in government. Lessons learned from commercial practices can be integrated into public programs, to the benefit of both the government and citizens.

This is also a template for how the public and private sectors can best collaborate and work together to meet the most important priority of meeting citizens’ needs and surpassing their expectations.