building trust in Australian public services: the road to customer-centricity

Creating a positive and dynamic experience for customers of Australian public service organisations starts with trust. To earn it, public service providers should take a customer-centric approach which puts the customer at the forefront of everything the organisation does. A customer-centric organisation builds products and services that meet customer needs and anticipate customer wants, providing a positive customer experience.

Culture Drives Customer Centricity

An organisation’s journey towards customer centricity starts from within. Cultural change is essential to a move towards customer centricity and is a key factor in determining the success of a customer experience (CX) program. Customer-centric organisations have a high level of support from the CEO and a clear strategic focus for their CX programs, which helps drive cultural change and encourages alignment from employees. This culture guides CX improvements that create brand advocates and builds loyalty and trust among customers.

Three Dimensions of Trust

Organisations need to encompass the three main dimensions of trust: competency, empathy, and integrity. Competency refers to the organisation’s capability to reliably provide services that meet customer needs. Empathy involves understanding and caring about the customers’ needs and their service experience, while integrity means meeting customers’ expectations and adhering to moral standards.

Encouragingly, data from the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) shows that 61% of Australians trusted public services in 2023, a figure that has remained stable from the previous year. Among those who accessed public services, 72% reported being satisfied with them; while 91% of people who trusted the services they interacted with, were also satisfied with them. This implies that trust is a continuous process, reinforced by a positive assessment of previous experiences. On the flipside, negative customer experiences can lead to distrust and dissatisfaction.

Drivers of Satisfaction

According to the Trust in Australian Public Services report, there are five key drivers of satisfaction: staff, information, outcome, process, and access. The report highlights that positive staff interactions are the most significant indicator of satisfaction, followed by the provision of accurate and easily understood information, and being provided an outcome. Conversely, the biggest detractors of satisfaction relate to service process issues, such as cumbersome procedures, lack of progress updates, and delays in receiving an outcome, leading to negative customer experiences.

Ultimately, to drive satisfaction among customers, organisations require a customer-first approach and need to empower staff to adopt this perspective, which is largely influenced by the organisation’s culture.

Improving Customer Experiences at a Local Council: A Case Study

A customer experience project conducted by Fifth Quadrant for a local council echoes the APSC’s findings. Similar challenges and opportunities for improving customer experiences were identified, and recommendations were made to support the Council in shifting to a customer-centric culture. Empowering staff to take ownership in staff-customer interactions was key recommendation, with this to be supported by better technology, systems, and processes, highlighting the importance of internal capabilities in improving customer experiences.

In essence, by building a foundation of trust and satisfaction and cultivating a customer-centric culture, public service organisations can enable positive customer experiences. Through empowering staff and designing processes that support these experiences, they can continue to build greater customer trust and satisfaction.

Click here to read the full case study about the Council customer experience project. Contact our team directly for more information on conducting your own customer experience research.