Engaging with the citizen experience to prepare for the future

Change is inevitable. Next year's general election might see a new government or, at the very least, new commitments from the current government. Whichever outcome, new policies will likely affect how citizens interact with government. We'll surely see a new wave of innovation with opportunities created by joining up data across government, leveraging AI and ever-increasing citizen expectations.

The key to responding and creating effective services that deliver innovative responses to policy intent is citizen experience.

How have user needs and expectations changed?

Experience tells me that diving deep into citizens' perspectives, experiences and expectations always pays back. It provides evidence to support initiatives that make a difference and ensures that services delivered have the citizen front and centre. 

Citizens' needs and expectations change, so engaging with them has to be an ongoing activity to ensure we continue to represent the diversity of their needs. If we see significant changes following the election, more citizens will likely seek help understanding how changes affect them. Citizens increasingly expect highly efficient digital services that are integrated across government such that interactions take as little of their time as possible. Equally, research from the Demos think tank suggests that the pandemic has also increased the need for government help. For example, citizens are seeking support for their mental health or financial situation but facing longer backlogs for services and reduced resources. This calls for a deeper interaction between citizen and government digital services, but with a continued demand to increase overall efficiency. 

What levers can we pull to improve citizen engagement and trust?

The first thing that springs to mind is the depth and nuance of our engagement. It's relatively straightforward to launch an online survey to research a topic. While that can secure volume, it does little to help us understand the citizen's experience or mindset when navigating a department, policy or service. It also doesn't help us understand and advocate for people with assisted digital needs or reach citizens that don't want to engage with government. 

So, we need to invest in research to understand assisted digital needs and work harder to earn the trust of those who are reluctant to engage. This is critical in understanding the edge cases where, often, the most help is needed.

How are you hearing the voice of the user?

Investing in user research always pays back and helps shape citizen services that deliver tangible benefits. By investing in user research, you'll be ready to plan and deliver when things change. 

The other thing to consider is how you connect as directly as possible with user research. We often describe user research as a team sport involving as many people from the team as possible. And we must make sure users' voices are heard. A great way of doing this is to include video snippets or quotes to accompany research to ensure the user's voice is heard. This often brings valuable context to the themes that emerge from surveys and helps build empathy.

Join the Citizen Experience Discussion Table at the GovX Transformation Summit on 11th May to explore citizen experience and discuss questions like:

  • What tools, techniques and approaches can we use to capture and share the voice of the user?
  • How do we reach and build trust with all kinds of citizens?
  • What can we do to share the insights, build empathy and involve everyone in the citizen experience?
  • How can we minimise bias and preconceptions?
  • What unexpected insights do we find, and how are these beneficial?
  • How does ongoing citizen experience feed into user satisfaction, completion rates, digital take-up and cost per transaction?

These are challenges we're familiar with at Valtech, having helped government departments to deliver award-winning digital services — for example, Department for Transport's Blue Badge Digital Service. We'd be pleased to welcome you to the Citizen Experience Discussion Table to share your experiences and learn from others.

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