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Measuring public service efficiency through the ‘Citizen Effort Score’

23/11/2020
Measuring public service efficiency through the ‘Citizen Effort Score’

As we increasingly apply Customer Experience (CX) principles to public services, new challenges present themselves. Services provided by the public sector are notoriously difficult to assess objectively, and often include high-impact factors that are fairly unique to the sector, like equality of access. Measuring ‘customer satisfaction’ won’t necessarily help to identify areas for improvement. As a result, the Citizen Effort Score has been developed to provide a more relevant indicator for measuring efficiency in public services that are supposed to be open to all. What does it entail?

All around the world, governments are facing the same challenge: how to continue improving the quality of their public services to satisfy ever higher user expectations, while reducing costs. This will be even more the case in the post COVID-19 world, as the effects of the pandemic are likely to have a devastating impact on public finances. At TLScontact, we are well accustomed to this challenge, having worked for many years with governments to help them manage an increasing number of visa applications, while limiting the cost of their visa departments. Outsourcing the administrative aspects of the process has enabled our government clients to focus their efforts – and their spending – on the decision-making part of their mission.

Read the article: Why outsource visa processes?

The same logic can be applied to managing wider citizen relations. Bringing in private sector expertise can help to improve the efficiency of public services and reduce costs, while also ensuring better service quality for users. The first step is to analyse the existing processes, to identify areas for improvement. However, this is not always an easy task and traditional satisfaction surveys will not necessarily provide genuine insight into user expectations.

Measuring citizen effort, rather than satisfaction

Satisfaction surveys in public services can indeed be biased, since answers are most often given according to the end result of a particular administrative process and do not reflect any difficulties that the person might have met along the way. Someone might say that they are satisfied with a service because they obtained the required document or because their request for financial aid was accepted. This won’t tell you if they had to wait a long time or if they had to go through multiple different steps to get to the desired outcome.

Unlike a standard satisfaction survey, establishing a Citizen Effort Score makes it possible to analyse a user’s journey and identify any difficulties involved in their administrative process. Among the criteria that are analysed are:

  • The complexity / simplicity of the process;
  • The timeframe;
  • The accessibility and clarity of the information provided;
  • The knowledge of the people they are in contact with within the public administration;
  • The cost…

These different factors will help analysts to evaluate the overall effort required and prioritise actions to be implemented to improve the process. The Citizen Effort Score thus becomes a genuine management tool for the public sector, helping to streamline administrative processes, improve working conditions for public agents and evaluate in concrete terms and over time the impact of a particular change on overall citizen experience.

A French example: access to public services in rural areas

Over the past few years, rural depopulation in France has led to many public services being closed in rural areas. Today, there appears to be a widening gap between large cities, where access to public services is relatively easy, and rural areas, which feel increasingly left behind. Working from this assumption, we wanted to measure the citizen effort necessary in rural areas to access public services. Working in partnership with the French Association of Rural Mayors (AMRF), we asked the consultancy Praxidia, our sister company within Teleperformance Group, to carry out a study.

In March 2020, Praxidia ran a survey among 900 French people living in rural areas. The survey highlights the difficulties faced by these users when trying to access public services, as well as the lack of awareness of existing solutions, such as ‘Public Service Houses’.

For 38% of those interviewed, their recent experience required a significant effort, with variations according to the particular process involved. An application for planning permission was quoted as the most complex procedure, followed by a request linked to training, employment or retirement, and finally, an application for a vehicle registration card or a driving license.

The main sources of effort cited were as follows:

  • The need to travel to another town (for 36% of survey participants);
  • The complexity of the procedures (20%);
  • The length of time required (18%);
  • The difficulty to obtain clear information (18%).

Many also mentioned the large number of interactions required to complete a procedure: up to 5.4 interactions on average. One quarter of those interviewed declared that they had already abandoned a procedure because it was too complicated.

For inhabitants of rural areas, we therefore note a high Citizen Effort Score. The French Association of Rural Mayors also used the survey to test people’s interest in a new solution that would be run by town halls. 78% of those interviewed said that they thought this new service would be an improvement on the current system and 33% said that they would be prepared to pay for such a service.

Read a summary of the study (in French only)

Understanding the Citizen Effort Score for users seeking to access a public service helps to measure in a very concrete manner the efficiency of processes already in place and, where necessary, envisage new solutions, as the French Association of Rural Mayors is doing today in France. As in the visa sector, these solutions can involve working with a private partner. In the same way as for visas, the aim is to allow the public administration concerned to improve efficiency and offer a better quality service to its users.  

Article written by David Cassel,
VP Public Sector – France

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