Turn the right levers and Influence mindsets to drive the citizen experiences


 – let’s not spare any effort in becoming citizen-centric

Organizations with a focus on customer experience are intentional about how they react to their customers and ensure that they have a good story to tell about their encounters. The reality in our world today is that designing better experiences is no longer a preserve of commercial entities. Although making a significant shift in this domain may not be ‘a walk in the park’ it is a necessary step that hopefully will lead to a reset in relationships between public agencies and their constituents. It is about turning the tide on public perception and government services to adopt a citizen-centric approach to achieving goals.

Let me share this story as fairly as I possibly can. I was on an early morning run just a couple of days ago and decided to stop for some waakye. This particular morning, I had decided not to go for ‘branded’ waakye. I stopped at the stall of a waakye vendor randomly and waited for my turn. Seeing that she had quite an impressive line of customers, I was convinced that it may be worth the try. No sooner had I settled in to wait than a group of 4 or 5 people turned up on the woman and threatened to close down her stall. They claimed that she had not renewed her health licence or certificate (hope I got that right).

They were from one of the public agencies, and it would seem that they were genuinely following up on standards and ensuring the well-being of Ghanaians like me who want to buy a meal. They were definitely within their rights to be following up on this errand; but what was worrying was their approach. They came in ‘Macho-style’ and were ready to ‘unleash venom’ on the poor woman. Their foray was disruptive and so a customer who was being served turned on them and pleaded that they allow customers to be served. Oh my, he probably regretted his diatribe. They all came on him angrily shouting at the top of their voices.

My thinking, just watching them, was what have they been trained to do? Were they just hired and given the mandate to go out there with minimal orientation to engage vendors who were non-compliant with their Health Certificate status? Wasn’t there a standard protocol to follow? It was a disturbing spectacle; however, you could tell that this group did not care what commotion they were causing by their approach. They were determined to get their work done, even if they had to step on the toes of others to do that. It begs the following question: “Is this group of people ‘citizen-centred’”?

There have been conversations in the public domain on the citizen experience. CXP Ghana thought it wise to run with the theme ‘The ROI on Customer Experience in Organisations and Countries – The Citizen Experience, the Brand Experience’  in their 2021 conference, an attestation of the fact that the citizen experience has pride of place as we ponder the pivotal role of customer experience in the business equation. The requirements for driving customer experience in this domain can’t be too different. Here are a few building blocks to ponder when reflecting on the citizen experience.

First, we look at a definition of the citizen experience and its relevance in the public domain. Second, tracking the impact of government services by collecting feedback from citizens and front-line workers. Third, effectively centralising and mining data to enhance decision-making. Fourth, the extent to which digital channels are leveraged to minimise journey pain points; and fifth is whether staff are empowered and well-resourced to carry out their duties efficiently with posturing influenced by ‘outside-in’ thinking.

The citizen experience

Just as we manage the journey from start to finish for any business where the sum accumulation of ‘moments of truth’ that an individual encounter in the journey across touchpoints is under close scrutiny, so too do we manage perceptions for citizens as we engage with public entities. The citizen experience is, therefore, the perception of government, based on all encounters with government agencies ranging from a wide variety of transactions, from researching available services and obtaining or updating licenses to submitting tax returns and everything in between. The encounter will span different touchpoints.

For example, to process your passport you will need to go through several stages (touchpoints) until you obtain the processed passport. This would mean applying online through their website and going to the Passport Office to follow through the process and providing what is required to enable the processing to go through the various stages. What happens during the processing constitutes the experience. The process might be painless, or it may turn out to be cumbersome. This is just one scenario.

Citizen experience in the public sector is no different from customer experience with reputable companies in the private sector. Just as we anticipate that our favourite brands will deliver a unique experience, we harbour similar expectations for public institutions. Years ago in Singapore, we got a taste of the citizen experience when we arrived in that country on a Sunday and realised there was no welcome party waiting for us. Later, we were informed by our hosts of the one-stop shop concept where government services were accessible from any other government agency. The front desk linked us to the relevant ministry and we were sorted.



To improve the citizen experience as it is with any other business, we must leverage feedback from citizens and those at the forefront of delivering citizen experiences. December GH 2023 promises to be a great bouquet of events following the ‘Year of the Return’. A plethora of events, activities,and festivals are happening in Ghana from November through January – all of which have officially been endorsed by the Ghana Tourism Authority under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture. How our visitors rate our services speaks volumes about the effect we are having on them in terms of our service delivery.

The feedback will give us a better picture of workflows that need to be improved, and areas that need to be optimized. This way we will be better informed as to what is lacking in our citizen experience. Many of our public sector clients have become accustomed to the relative delivery speed, service integration, and attentive customer service; thus heightening expectations of similar delivery levels from the public sector. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides a detailed instruction page for passport applicants. The establishment of Client Service Units at all Passport Application Centres (PACs) is aimed at addressing user issues promptly.

A user-friendly and responsive passport service delivery ensures that the average Ghanaian is guaranteed quick and efficient service facilitated by a painless journey. This is part of other sweeping measures to enhance passport service delivery. Government agencies must leverage the data they collect to gain insights into how they are delivering at their touchpoints and what the citizens think of their services. The challenge is in providing the right data to the right people at the right time, analysing it and using it more effectively by responding to concerns and addressing pain points.

Data mining

The key is to avoid the silos approach and work collaboratively to ensure that data points from whatever sources are available on demand. The goal is to leverage what you know about your citizens and how they interact with your organisation to design experiences with the best positive impact. Data mining is the searching and analysing of large batches of raw data to identify patterns and extract new information. Many companies use data mining software to learn more about their customers. It helps them to develop more effective marketing strategies, increase sales, and decrease costs.

By mining our data, we can pinpoint opportunities to improve the citizen experience and let it guide us in our decision-making process. Government services are better able to leverage the plethora of citizen points when we have a good hang on the data. My National Insurance number in the UK was accessible to all government agencies. Whether it was to book a hospital appointment or to meet my local MP, my profile was easily accessible – avoiding the need to reinvent the wheel when dealing with different agencies. We must move away from the siloed approach to improve service delivery.

Years ago, at a symposium addressed by a director of one of the ministries, the silo effect was very obvious when a member of the audience asked a question on an issue that had to do with another ministry. The director quickly interrupted the questioner and directed her to go to the ‘so and so’ ministry to have her complaint resolved. Tracking back to my Singapore experience, I was ‘proudly’ informed of the ‘one-stop shop’ service for all government agencies, such that any ministry you visited could address any other need you had that would require interaction with another ministry or department. I assume that we are gradually moving away from silos.

Digital channels

That several government agencies have digital touchpoints is heartwarming. It paves the way for an enhanced citizen experience. GRA has gone digital with the electronic levy and other touchpoints. If we can scale up these touchpoints as we have done in several agencies, we will potentially create seamless, digital services that can better reach, inform and engage constituents. It will minimise bureaucracies focusing on what they think citizens want rather than what they need. Today’s constituents crave highly individualised engagements that address their necessities. The way forward is a win-win for each side.

Digital channels present us with immense possibilities. It enhances capabilities for searching for information with a higher degree of accuracy. It also enhances accessibility as it helps citizens navigate government websites and access their required information. It also informs agencies about their constituents’ interests and how to best address them.  Student loans can now be applied for online with a greater speed in processing. A journey starting from accessibility, findability, reputation, per/post-purchase, and advocacy sums up the journey for any citizen engaging government touchpoints with higher degrees of success.

The goal is to achieve a level where an individual’s experiences are addressed, rather than points of interaction with varying degrees of service quality. If government services are done well, they will present citizens with out-of-world experiences worth sharing and it can be transformative. With the right technologies in place, government agencies can interact with citizens more directly and personally. Ultimately, it will produce closer communities where the gap between government and the public disappears. Citizens can now connect to their governments voluntarily while identifying with them.

Empowering staff

We have spoken time and again about the employee experience. Government agencies are no different. To deliver a great citizen experience, we must equip our people with the right mindset that primes them into the ‘outside-in’ thinking frame. Empowered with the right tools, coupled with the right mindset, will pave the way for employees to deliver personalised experiences based on their intuitive understanding of citizen concerns. The use of technology helps automate processes and frees staff to focus on delivering targeted services. A satisfied employee will go out of her way to ensure that the service user leaves satisfied.

Naturally, salary, benefits and company culture are pivotal in shaping the employee experience; however, there is more. The employee experience is influenced by everything employees encounter, including fair hiring and promotion practices, your relationship with the local community, and even managers’ likelihood of checking in with their teams daily. The good thing about the employee experience is that it can create positive points of contact between employees and the organisation. Happier, fulfilled employees drive higher levels of performance.

Whether it is a modern laptop or flexible working arrangements, even the smallest factors can have a profound influence on employee experience. A supportive work environment helps employees feel good about their work. It also helps increase their overall motivation, engagement and productivity. Four key areas are recommended to drive the employee experience effectively – A CEO or leader who communicates the mission for all to align, the HR department that ensures implementation of strategy change, managers that challenge all to align with goals, and everyone in the company who pays attention to positive employee experiences.

As with every other process regardless of which entity we are working this process, the goal is always to improve the experience. We must endeavour to share best practices among public institutions and also learn from the private sector to drive and sustain a culture that puts the citizen experience at the heart of everything we do. We must focus on controlling the citizen experience while facilitating the ability to make adjustments in real time. This must go on iteratively to sustain the ideal citizen experience for as long as we can.

  The writer is Head of Training Development & Research

Service Excellence Foundation, and Management Consultant (Change and Customer Experience). He can be reached on 059 175 7205,

[email protected],  https://www.linkedin.com/in/km-13b85717/


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