Forward-looking cities are pursuing game-changing technologies that position them for an exciting new future as digitally enabled, data-driven, customer-centric ecosystems that are designed to consistently put each citizen-customer first. The pandemic has accelerated the urgency for innovative capabilities, approaches and services that can cater to quickly changing public demands and expectations. It has been an accelerant to the already burning flame of change.

Focusing on the capabilities that will truly enable citizen-customer-centric services will be a crucial component to success. A key lies in the ability of cities and their leaders to shift their approach to implementing modern technology. Rather than focusing on rapid implementation, it is important to first recognize the impact technology will have on those it is being implemented to serve. People's mindset may be the greatest barrier to inevitable change.

The emergence of fully connected smart cities reveals promising and highly productive new ways technology can be put in the service of people. Digital technologies are often embraced for their potential to unlock effective urban solutions, but they are only valuable when they allow city authorities to deliver services that appropriately meet public needs.

Simply put, you cannot begin the journey without a clear destination. Technology adoption needs to support and deliver on clear objectives, priorities and operational challenges. This is crucial to driving effective innovation and optimizing future service delivery and efficiency. City leaders should adapt and respond to a variety of challenges by clearly understanding the nature of diverse issues and their potential solutions. Aligning precise and efficient solutions to each emerging challenge will be crucial to putting technology in the service of people.

The journey begins with a clear destination

Transformational digital technology and smart data use can enable cities to bring experience-centric service to exciting new levels of responsiveness and efficiency. But the journey forward cannot begin without a clear destination. City leaders will need new capabilities to accelerate the delivery of solutions toward today’s complicated challenges, while also embracing technology and data-driven insights to accurately assess each emerging new challenge and its potential solutions.

While there are revealing examples of what smart cities are accomplishing with strategic approaches and initiatives, KPMG professionals are also seeing instructive examples in their own work with clients. KPMG in Australia is currently working with the Land Transport Authority to implement new digital capabilities and convenient payment processes that are designed to enhance the efficiency and cost management of public transportation.

There are growing global players taking strategic transformation approaches aimed at generating outcomes and efficiencies to deliver customer-centric services. In southeast Asia, for example, so-called super-app Grab, which started out as an Uber-like driving service, has boomed to become a household name by delivering a remarkable array of services efficiently and profitably.

Recognizing that the region’s cities were increasingly congested, that public infrastructure was limited and that widening income inequality was leaving the less-privileged underserved, Singapore-based Grab has continually evolved over the last decade to have a positive social impact in serving millions of consumers, merchants, drivers and delivery partners.

Grab's consumers get fast product and food delivery, safety assurance and value, merchant partners enjoy broad reach, efficiency and ongoing innovation to drive growth, and driver/delivery partners are receiving the technology they need to enhance and grow their operations. Grab’s services also include modern digital-wallet payment processes as well as financial and insurance products.

At the same time, KPMG in Singapore's work with KrisPay, the digital wallet and customer reward-points app that Singapore Airlines offers, is delivering new capabilities for customers to use earned airline points for purchases with dozens of other businesses – from groceries, meals and bubble tea to hotels, auto fuel, apparel and sports gear. The customer data being generated 24/7 by this ecosystem positions the airline to continually personalize and customize its services and offerings based on its understanding of each customer’s specific preferences and buying behaviors.

Cities need to put every customer first

The global pandemic has served to accelerate digital innovation and transform services among cities and all levels of government amid emergency conditions. While the journey continues, however, research reveals that there is still significant ground to cover in terms of effectively implementing modern technology in ways that provide true customer centricity for a new era.

Forrester’s Customer Experience Index research shows that governments, despite emerging technology and evolving public expectations, continue to trail the private sector in providing a modern, customer-centric experience. Research shows that they provide poorer customer experience than any private-sector industry and that most government customer experience has stagnated for years while private-sector customer experiences continually improve.1 Fewer than half are confident in their analytics technology and data-enrichment capabilities – capabilities that are indispensable in providing data-based insights that enable citizen-customer-centric services and ongoing innovation.2

Ultimately, there are remarkable examples of what the future holds, progress on a widening scale will demand that cities go beyond the rapid pursuit of modern technology – focusing first on how digital capabilities can enable personalized customer-centric services that meet the diverse and ever-evolving needs of those being served.

Key takeaways

  • Cities and their leaders looking to provide a new world of experience-centric digital services should shift their typical focus from rapid technology implementation and first understand how the application of technology can impact those it is being implemented to serve.
  • With objectives and needs precisely defined, it becomes essential to understand which technologies, capabilities and expertise can best deliver the required outcomes.
  • Dedicating the time and costs needed for smart and thorough planning is critical to success. Partnering with the right solution provider can enable rapid and efficient transformation toward the desired future state



The US Federal Customer Experience Index, 2020,” Forrester Research Inc., September 30, 2020

A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of KPMG, February 2021