Recent Accenture research uncovered an interesting finding about the connection between customer service and revenue growth. We discovered that when companies embrace customer service as a value creator, they achieve 3.5x more revenue growth than competitors. Companies that still manage customer service as a cost center are missing out on its potential to support growth.

This compelling insight should encourage every organization to rethink how they view and manage customer service.

What does this finding mean for public service?

Public service organizations aren’t focused on the same metrics as commercial enterprises. Increasing top-line growth is rarely a priority. The same goes for capturing greater market share. However, I believe we can adapt our research findings and recommendations to public service. And there is an even more compelling reason to do so: improving the lives of the people you serve. 

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1. Mitigate friction by becoming more proactive

Our x-industry research found that B2B and B2C customers prize proactive service. They appreciate when a provider anticipates and solves a problem before it affects their experience. In some cases, customers are even willing to pay a premium for proactive support. But they also told us that they’re not getting this kind of service as much as they would like.

Public service agencies can use this data point to rethink workflows to be more proactive. In fact, we saw great examples of this during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most states in the United States were navigating tidal waves of unemployment claims. To overcome this challenge, some unemployment agencies used virtual agents to provide more responsive, transparent support.

In other states, proactive chat made it possible to provide greater personalization and privacy during a stressful time. Rather than having to pick up the phone and call a contact center, claimants could check status and provide information via online chat.

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Offering chat increased the convenience, privacy and effectiveness of engagement. People could stay in touch on their time. It was good for individuals and good for public health.

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2. Maximize value by thinking like a trusted source

In the B2B world, it’s common for a company to assign dedicated resources to their customers. These resources become trusted advisors who get to know the customer and that organization’s priorities and goals. They help the customer get more value from what they have purchased.

Citizens aren’t usually looking to government for “advice.” Nor are they hoping to be wowed by an amazing experience. Rather, they want to accomplish something — whether that’s accessing a benefit, renewing a license or updating their personal information. They want confidence that they can complete their goals with efficiency and reliability.

So, rather than working to become a trusted advisor, government should assume the position of a trusted source. Use service channels to deliver accurate, timely and reliable information and support to individuals and businesses. Be a resource people know they can count on whether they contact you via phone, through a web portal or in person.

3. Improve experience by “listening” to service insights

In the commercial world, no function is closer to the customer than the service team. Every day, the customer service function gathers data about customers and their experiences. They identify what's working, where customers are having issues and which product improvements customers would like to see.

Our global study found that private-sector companies that always use service-related insights to inform product development are outperforming their peers. In fact, they achieve up to 10x more revenue growth.

Again, government agencies aren’t looking to drive super-sized growth, and unlike commercial providers, they can’t target certain customer segments. Government serves everyone. By listening to service-related data and insights, you can identify opportunities to reduce friction and enable more equitable access.

We’re already seeing evidence of how this approach works. During a COVID-19 resurgence in 2020, San Francisco County used a chatbot to support contact tracing. A recent article in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) shared how this approach enhanced and improved engagement.

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San Francisco County prioritized telephone-based case investigation by zip code and used a chatbot to screen for case participants who needed to isolate. This approach helped reduce the number of case participants who required a telephone interview. It also made it possible to reach populations who otherwise could have been difficult to engage.

In other words, offering chat increased the convenience, privacy and effectiveness of engagement. People could stay in touch on their time. This experience was good for individuals and good for public health.

For government, becoming more proactive, more trusted and more attuned to service insights won’t result in higher sales or profits. But it can lead to an even better result: improved outcomes for the people you serve.

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Eyal Darmon

Managing Director – Strategy & Consulting, Public Service