Generational differences present an opportunity to reinvent public sector service delivery

As major technology companies have transformed the ideal customer experience into instantaneous “one-click” services, the public sector has been challenged to keep pace. As a result, government organizations must meet the changing expectations of Americans with faster, simpler, 24/7 services.

Government is ingrained in the fabric of our lives, including the water we drink, the roads we drive on and the electricity that powers our homes. However, with the growing preference for simple services, the public sector must match the preferences of many different demographics to bring them a seamless customer experience.

Some constituents still prefer to walk into a brick-and-mortar government building and fill out paper forms face-to-face. Others would rather speak with an employee over the phone, and some would like to complete the whole process online from the convenience of their laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Each generation has distinct preferences for interacting with and participating in government, making a “one-size-fits-all” approach to public service nearly impossible. This brings a unique engagement opportunity for local governments to make beneficial changes to their processes. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to public sector service delivery, local governments should mold their service delivery methods to meet constituents where they are. Harnessing generational and regional differences will allow the public sector to serve more constituents effectively.

Data reveals that only 20 percent of U.S. constituents of all ages believe that the government has better customer service than other industries. Moreover, when breaking this down by generation, older generations such as Baby Boomers and Generation X rate government service delivery even lower at 14 percent and 17 percent, respectively. Younger generations, Millennials and Generation Z, rank it much higher at 27 percent each. What can explain this stark difference in opinion?

One of the reasons is that younger generations find online service delivery points easier to use than older generations, who may have less experience with those avenues. A Millennial may see an online self-help portal as intuitive and convenient, while their grandparents may find it a daunting obstacle to navigate.

Governments can manage this difference by steering people who prefer online services toward those delivery points while reserving the most time-consuming and costly touchpoints—like call center representatives—for those who need that one-on-one live support.

The concept of a customized public sector service delivery for local governments may seem daunting but using generational data and ready-built cloud resources to individualize service delivery will provide a better overall experience.

A proactive approach to citizen services: Playing offense

Local governments should take a proactive approach in engaging constituents in government services and offering, playing offense in improving constituent engagement. Rather than waiting for constituents to come to them, playing offense in the approach to citizen services can build a better customer experience overall.

Across all generations, less than 50 percent believe that the government has the tools to help them. Moreover, with the profound changes in public sector service delivery spanning the entire United States—a one-size-fits-all approach to local government service delivery isn’t enough to increase trust in government services.

Being proactive and playing offense in the approach to citizen services means engaging constituents and asking them how they want to interact with local government. Local governments must proactively meet constituents where they’re at—a statement that varies based on aspects like age and region. Collecting and using local-specific data will help local governments craft a plan that serves their constituents, meeting their needs where they’re at.

Expanding and reskilling the talent ecosystem

Another way to approach individualized service delivery is to focus efforts on workforce development through reskilling and recruitment. The key to this? Investing time and resources into expanding the age and skill set of the public sector workforce. This will encourage innovation and new customized approaches to meeting local constituent needs—bringing a wave of creativity to service delivery.

Engaging younger generations in the public sector workforce will bring fresh ideas to the table and involve them in the problem-solving process to develop the skills to adapt these processes in the future. Getting young people involved in government is essential to developing engagement strategies that represent and satisfy the needs and wants of their demographic.

Though reskilling and recruitment are essential tools, retention is critical. Keeping the people who know the space well up to date on emerging technologies through reskilling will keep local governments running smoothly and efficiently.

Nadia Hansen is a digital transformation executive at Salesforce where she helps state and local governments across the globe reimagine service delivery for citizens and employees. She is the former CIO of Clark County, Nevada, where she spearheaded the technology innovation, strategy and delivery of mission-critical services for the organization.