When interacting with a local government organization, and depending on locality, a ‘customer’ can be anyone, including citizens, taxpayers, tourists, clients, employees and organizations. The challenge today is to effectively serve today’s customers and communities in new ways, ideally with a single timely view of customers to deliver what they have come to expect in terms of service and outcomes amid the modern digital experiences of other service-based organizations.

Enhanced customer outcomes should be a leading priority. With digital technologies making customer-centric personalization the norm, some organizations are picking up on this signal of changing expectations and taking strategic action to put their own customers at the center of all they do.

Customer service for the digital era has risen to the top of the agenda for Australia’s City of Mitcham, for example, amid increasing public demand for enhanced services. Local authorities there have enacted a comprehensive three-year roadmap for transformation of technology, operations, people and culture, and new reliance on data-based insights, to make customer service and satisfaction a leading priority in all that Mitcham does.

In Saudi Arabia, innovative customer-centric applications like Amana 940 are transforming public services at the ‘street level’. The Amana 940 app lets concerned citizens report to authorities any violations they see that affect or disrupt municipal operations in neighborhoods and along roadways. Citizens can submit a digital photo to authorities using a convenient phone application for quick follow-up and remedial action.

Creating a ‘community platform’

Progress is indeed emerging and, if done well, the ability to connect digitally across organizations can help create a customer-centric community platform that gives customers and businesses unprecedented access to a wide range of personalized digital services.

The future operating model needs to be built on the principle of ‘linked business capabilities,’ focusing on the need for today’s powerful enabling technologies to underpin end-to-end capabilities – ultimately connecting every layer within and across the operating model. Front, middle and back offices are thus newly connected to provide seamless, secure and reliable customer-centered services at every turn.

This concept is discussed in our article on redesigning services – Redesigning services using timely customer data, analytics and insights . In many countries, local organizations are the natural choice for such a role, as they are the public-sector organizations that people transact with most often, that have a presence in every community and that take a lead in setting local strategic objectives and driving future prosperity.

All things considered, however, while today’s local authorities have the opportunity to deliver better-connected, trusted, personalized customer services and collaboration, they do have considerable ground to cover, according to research by Forrester Consulting research on behalf of KPMG. Just half (51 percent) believe their customer experience is meeting customer expectations, while only 36 percent believe they are ‘occasionally or consistently’ meeting expectations for a customer-centric experience.1

Secure identity management is a key

To reach the goal of a highly personalized, digitally enabled, customer-centric service model, there are critical milestones that local organizations should achieve on the way. One is to establish a robust and trusted identity-management ecosystem, one that ensures secure data management. Both are critical to giving customers the confidence to engage with organizations digitally. See Trust is key to unlocking digital identity, security and data insights for more on this.

Customers want safety, convenience and reliable self-service. Identity management enables the high level of personalization that customers expect today. With end-to-end service capabilities that identity management can securely unlock, customers should be positioned to ‘build’ or ‘design’ their own personal and customized experience.

Identity management is the key and it presents organizations with both a challenge and an opportunity – combining the power of data and capabilities smartly to forge innovative and convenient new customer connections. Governments should empower customers to tap into secure and convenient digital services just as they interact today with banks, retailers, travel services and beyond.

Done well, secure self-service increases customer satisfaction, decreases service costs and enables staff to focus on value-adding tasks rather than transactional activities. Modern functionality should enable a process to be started by the customer, unfold seamlessly through middle-office systems, and be completed with minimal human intervention.

For example, chatbots can help answer a range of questions with a degree of personalization, as we have seen in the UK, where Cardiff Council’s bilingual English-Welsh chatbot can answer questions based on a user’s address. Meanwhile, local authorities in Victoria, Australia have standardized services through a customer service and request portal. Each request now moves digitally through integration layers to middle office technology and team functions.

Local organizations should also seek to narrow the ‘digital divide’ that exists, in order to include those who are less-connected, typically in older age groups, versus today’s hyper-connected younger customers who are digital natives. Service that encompasses everyone will be crucial in the journey to personalized, custom-centric service. The goal while ‘going digital’ should ideally be to create the best fit of services and capabilities that meet the vastly diverse needs and expectations of all customers.

Key takeaways

  • Customer expectations have evolved, making personalization of service inevitable.
  • Local authorities should deepen their understanding of their customers to improve outcomes, ideally using today’s ground-breaking technologies and capabilities, such as integration platforms, micro-services and front, middle and back office connections.
  • Adopting a ‘local government as a platform’ model is a way forward to connect government with every customer and stakeholder.
  • Narrowing the ‘digital divide’ to include those less connected is crucial in the journey to personalized, custom-centric service.


1 A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of KPMG, November 2020