Peter Y. Soh
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April 06, 2005
Governments Must Move Beyond eGovernment Initiatives to Enhance Customer Service for Citizens, Accenture Study Finds

WASHINGTON; April 6, 2005 – Despite having invested billions of dollars moving services and information resources online, governments around the world are still struggling to meet citizens’ growing expectations for better customer service, according to the results of a study released today by Accenture.

The study, “Leadership in Customer Service: New Expectations, New Experiences,” is Accenture’s sixth annual global report on government service delivery. In a departure from previous reports, the 2005 study goes beyond measuring the extent to which governments offer services online to investigating their leadership in delivering true customer service – the value they bring to their citizens through multiple channels.

The study comprised two major components. The first was a leadership assessment of the overall service maturity of 22 national governments in North America, Europe and Asia based on the breadth and depth of the eGovernment services they offer, as well as leadership assessments along several key categories. For the second component, Accenture surveyed 9,000 adults in the same 22 countries to uncover their perceptions and customer experiences interacting with their government online, in person or via phone.

To measure overall service maturity, an indicator of how well governments are delivering customer service, Accenture focused on four key aspects of service delivery: a citizen-centered perspective, cohesive multi-channel services, fluid cross-government services, and proactive communications and education. The study found that while eGovernment offerings across the board are well advanced, with an average service maturity breadth of 91 percent, all countries have room for improvement to realize the broader goal of leadership in customer service. In fact the overall average customer service maturity score – which measures four key aspects of service delivery, including how well governments are delivering service across multiple channels – was just 39 percent. Only Canada has an overall customer service maturity score of more than 50 percent.

The citizen survey found that while most citizens prefer a number of different methods of communicating with governments, they continue to rely on more traditional, offline channels. Despite the relative Internet savvy and familiarity with online government in some countries, the telephone continues to be the predominant means citizens use to communicate with government. Over the past 12 months, 57 percent of respondents had used the telephone to interact with government, as opposed to only 22 percent who had used the Internet. Yet despite its popularity, the telephone is consistently ranked as the least easy form of communication across all countries surveyed.

“What we have learned from speaking with governments and citizens alike is that eGovernment is only one component – albeit an important one – of a high-peformance government,” said Marty I. Cole, group chief executive of Acenture’s Government operating group. “This year’s research shows that governments cannot afford to invest all of their effort and resources in developing the online channel alone to keep pace with citizen demands. The entire government organization must become focused on delivering services to citizens that are tailored to their needs and circumstances, and are coordinated across the various channels of interaction.”

The 2005 study revealed that all countries experienced a drop from previous years’ overall eGovernment maturity scores, which measured the level to which a government has developed an online presence and were solely based on the Accenture researchers’ evaluations of countries’ eGovernment programs. For the fifth consecutive year, Canada ranked first out of the 22 countries surveyed in maturity, followed by the United States, Denmark, Singapore and Australia.

Countries that fared worse this year tended to be those with an emphasis on solely the eGovernment aspects of their service delivery programs. A look at eGovernment programs across the globe shows that continued incremental improvements in this area are unlikely to yield significant boosts to maturity. To advance now, governments must focus on a much broader vision.

The study also found that while most citizens are eager to embrace a new generation of services, governments’ are falling short on their ability to deliver them. For example, a majority of citizens (55%) believe government is being effective when it acts as a single, seamless entity that can remember all of the details of a citizen’s previous contact. However, an average of only 24 percent of citizens across all countries reported the government actually being able to do so. In the United Kingdom, which scored highest in this category, only 38 percent said the government remembered all details of a previous contact. Even in Canada, which ranked number one in overall maturity ratings this year, 70 percent of the respondents claimed that the government had forgotten at least some details of their previous transactions.

About the Research
Behaving as citizens and businesses, Accenture researchers attempted to fulfill service needs that might typically be provided by a national government in 22 countries. They began by assessing the Web sites of national government agencies to determine the breadth of services and the level at which citizens could interact with government. They next evaluated other capabilities, such as the cohesiveness across multiple channels and the extent and sophistication of governments’ efforts at outreach and education related to their services. In total, the researchers investigated 177 national government services across 12 major service sectors that were representative of what citizens and businesses require from their government most frequently, and were traditionally offered over the counter, by phone or in paper format. The 22 governments included: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. The research was conducted Jan. 3-17, 2005.

Accenture also conducted quantitative research on citizens’ perceptions related to service delivery in the same 22 countries. The citizen survey was conducted for Accenture by Lansdowne Market Research, an independent market research company, from Jan. 4-18, 2005. A representative sample of 400 adults aged 18 and over was surveyed in each country, except in the United States, where 600 were surveyed. Polls were conducted via the telephone, using random-digit dialing. Poll respondents were a nationally representative sample of adults aged 18 years or older in 18 out of 22 countries. In the other four countries, leading international practices for conducting research were used to get a polling sample. The margin of error for the total survey universe of 9,000 at the 95% confidence interval level is +/- 1.03 percent.

About Accenture
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. Committed to delivering innovation, Accenture collaborates with its clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. With deep industry and business process expertise, broad global resources and a proven track record, Accenture can mobilize the right people, skills and technologies to help clients improve their performance. With more than 100,000 people in 48 countries, the company generated net revenues of US$13.67 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2004. Its home page is www.accenture.com.

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