The past few years have been categorised by significant changes in the technology landscape across the globe. From emerging technologies to the refinement of entrenched methodologies to the exploration of new technology frontiers – business, country, sector and vertical has been impacted by the relentless tide of change. However, organisations and the public sector are asking new questions that have been ignited by this change – how can enterprise and government best serve the people so as to best serve the economy and inspire growth and development?
Traditionally, any discussion around a service-oriented culture would have placed the customer on the periphery and the organisation at the core. That has changed. Today, the customer sits at the core while the organisation loops around the periphery, providing service at multiple touchpoints along the journey. Service models are changing, attitudes are adjusting and the results can potentially transform business and economy.
The Home Affairs department in South Africa is an excellent example of how government has put this concept into practice. Instead of long queues in dusty buildings to renew passports, citizens can access these services through banks, often dealing with shorter queues and quicker service. This commitment to customer service has the potential to transform all public sector services and potentially the economy. This has already been proven in countries such as Singapore and Ethiopia. Visitors can access services or products required by government through self-service channels or very efficiently through specific departments making it easy for tourists and businesses to spend money. There is a correlation between those countries that embed a culture of customer service and those that have high-growth percentages.
While not precisely quantifiable, this connection between service and culture ultimately impacts the attractiveness of a country when it comes to doing business. If it’s easy to do business, as indicated by the World Bank Doing Business report, then research has shown that this drives economic growth.
Achieving this culture needs to walk hand-in-hand with technology as it is the primary enabler of this level of evolution. In the past, many government departments were unable to offer variety in location or service as they were limited in technology and backend capability. Today, technology has enabled the government to expand offerings and improve service to citizenry.
In addition, customer service technology has the ability to help shape an economy as it too has taken several evolutionary steps forward. There are solutions that enable how people sell, how they get their message out to market, how they service customers, and how they learn more about customer needs. There are tools that allow for the interpretation of those needs and others that walk hand-in-hand with the customer through the entire lifecycle of engagement. These are customer experience tools and technologies that sit under the moniker of customer relationship management (CRM) but extend far beyond what the name suggests.
One example of intelligent investment into technology and citizenry is Estonia, a tiny country in the north-east corner of Europe that showcases how technology can change an economy. From 1991, when it left the Soviet Union, to today, the country used public-private partnerships and investment into technology to bridge the digital divide, support citizen engagement and security, and create a culture of transparency. From drafting legislation to initiating ideas with parliament to participating in decision making – Estonian citizens have access to everything they need to make informed decisions and participate in the future of the country.
Three factors that help drive a service orientated economy
- A high level of openness inspires trust; a commodity that can change a country’s culture and impact on its economy. Keeping promises builds trust. Once you have trust, you can get customers to mobilise and do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do – they are more open to working with the organisation and more open to change. When citizens and customers are prepared to embrace change, organisations can continue innovating and improve what they bring to market.
- Another factor is speed. When service is embedded into a culture, speed to market radically improves and gives the business the ability to focus on strategy and outsource more effectively. This will, in turn, have an impact on the kind of organisations a business surrounds itself with and the partnerships it forges – those that support the culture of service will work with those who share the same values and very different models and attitudes will evolve.
- Simplifying processes through technology; on the public sector level, imagine the knock-on effect if administrative requirements such as TV licenses, liquor licenses, agricultural licenses et al were simplified and frustrations around queues and paperwork modified? The barrier to entry would be significantly reduced and this would ignite further growth, both from the home-grown entrepreneur and the international investor, all with a higher degree of compliance.
It is vital that both government and organisations become more service oriented and digitised. There is a huge opportunity in South Africa to follow in Estonian footsteps and to become innovators and game changers. To learn from others who have made these changes, to learn from their mistakes and to follow a digitisation process that delivers to customer and citizen.
Partnerships and initiatives designed to address legacy issues and ignite a service-oriented culture should be innovative and need to advocate for transparency. They must improve revenue streams, grow trust, enhance speed to market and customer service, and use technology’s capabilities to enable effectively.
By Adnan Theba, CX Sales Consulting Lead, Oracle South Africa