Budget, reduced staff numbers, and barriers to innovation are the biggest challenges to improving customer service in the public sector according to new research.
YPO, the UK’s largest public sector buying organisation and one of only a handful of public bodies to be a member of the Institute for Customer Service (ICS), has revealed the findings of national research among public sector workers and UK consumers.
The survey by YPO – which in 2016 won silver in The UK Employee Experience Awards‘ ‘Loving your Customer’ category – found half (49 percent) of those working in the public sector say budgetary constraints and reduced staff numbers are the biggest challenge to delivering good customer service now and in the future, while stretched budgets are also cited as a barrier to innovation.
Against a backdrop of rising financial pressure for public organisations, the advent of social media is putting further pressure on customer service as it changes the way consumers and service users communicate.
The social shaming power of Twitter and Facebook has seen public organisations formalise their digital approach.
The majority of public sector workers surveyed (83 percent) said the rise of social media has made public sector organisations take customer service more seriously, a development welcomed by 87 percent of workers as a “good thing”.
A third (34.3 percent) said their customers and service users should be able to share great experiences through social media and almost a quarter of customers and service users said they would use social media to express their satisfaction (23 percent) or complain (18 percent).
Jo Marshall, Executive Director at YPO said: “As public sector organisations face the challenge of decreased funding coupled with increasing demand, they are looking to find new, innovative ways of working to improve customer service.
“This research explores what good customer service looks like in the public and private sector, challenges and barriers to good customer service and what it feels like for those who deliver and receive services.”
One area highlighted from the survey is the potential for sharing experiences and key learnings between public and private sector to create improvements and innovation. The research found that 72 percent of public sector workers were not able to compare levels of innovation across the sectors suggesting that increased collaboration would be beneficial.
“More effective collaboration across the public and private sector and with suppliers will create a more productive environment in which to innovate and will enable public sector organisations to continue to set the pace of improvement,” said Jo Marshall.
Other ways to innovate include moving services online, however the suggestion received a mixed response.
The majority of public sector workers say they are in favour (69 percent) while consumers and service users are less enthusiastic. Nearly half (44 percent) believe there would be no improvement in customer service as a result.
“The YPO customer service research raises some interesting issues and topics for debate and reveals key themes for public organisations facing difficult choices when planning to meet customer expectations today and in the future,” continued Ms Marshall.
“Together with developing on-line and digital responses, improving competencies through training and upskilling, implementing effective listening and creating a culture of continuous improvement are all revealed to be central to improved customer service.”
For more details on the findings, click here.