• James Turland, Analyst |
5 min read

Citizen Experience Excellence

For the last 20 years, KPMG have been leaders in the experience space, through the establishment of the 6 Pillars and the Customer Experience Excellence Centre. The 6 Pillars are a set of emotional qualities that define every outstanding customer experience which can create loyalty and drive growth. KPMG’s Customer Experience Excellence research for public sector is now in its second year and the view of the citizen has never been more poignant, the research has analysed over 16,000 individual citizen responses across 7 UK public sector organisations. This research defines what great citizen experiences in the public sector look like across KPMG’s Six Pillar framework, and explores the intrinsic link between citizen satisfaction, public service outcomes, and operating costs.

Challenges in delivering great citizen experiences

Public sector organisations are increasingly having to do more with less. The cost-of-living crisis has increased the demand for public services. This has created a unique challenge for public sector organisations in 2023 and only looks to become more prevalent as inflation rises and macroeconomic factors take their toll. Combine this with the long-term effects of austerity measures and continued financial cuts, and the result is public sector organisations being stretched to their limits.

Our research suggests that the staff whom citizens interact with at public sector organisations are the greatest cause for satisfaction; however, this is seldom translated into a great citizen experience. One of the key drivers behind this is a lack of digital capability within the workforce, causing siloed service delivery which increases operating costs and takes away from the citizen experience. Citizens interact with the public sector on a needs-must basis and therefore measure their experience based on the physical and emotional effort required to find resolutions to their issues. For the new citizen, a friendly face is simply not enough.

Utilising the Six Pillars of Citizen Experience

Understanding citizens through the lens of the following Six Pillars will allow public sector organisations to provide a great citizen experience.


The end-to-end citizen journey is full of highly emotional touchpoints as interactions often have a great bearing on a citizen’s quality of life. Public sector organisations must recognise these touchpoints and ensure they are managed by emotionally intelligent employees, who are empowered to go the extra mile to relate to and prioritise citizens. Organisations should meet citizens where they are emotionally, to empathise with their circumstances.


Citizens expect to be recognised and treated like individuals, regardless of how they choose to interact with services. Our research tells us that over 40% of citizens felt their previous interactions were not recognised when interacting with a public sector organisation. Public sector organisations are in a unique situation, whereby citizens are users of public sector services for life, regularly providing personal information. Public sector organisations must harness this opportunity to link data sources and synchronise services with citizens’ current and previous circumstances, adapting to their changing needs.

Time and Effort:

Citizens place value on their time, often measuring their experiences based on the amount of physical or emotional effort an interaction has taken. In fact, our research tells us that the time spent waiting during an interaction is the most memorable factor in 20% of interactions. Public sector organisations must provide efficient and accessible services, designed to maximise citizen convenience across all service pathways.


Citizen expectations of public sector services are evolving. Our research tells us that public empathy seen throughout the pandemic is wearing off, and the tolerance for missed expectations is reducing. In fact, 75% of citizens believe themselves to be a customer of the public sector and have the same expectations of services as in the private sector.  Public sector organisations must first understand citizen expectations and behaviour across the end-to-end citizen journey, before delivering insight-led interventions to manage, meet and exceed expectations.


A key nuance in the public sector is the importance of resolution. Citizens interact with the public sector on a needs-must basis, whereby the need is often highly important. Therefore, their experience is often determined by finding a resolution. The poorest experiences occur when staff appears to be unable or unwilling to resolve citizen issues. Public sector organisations must empower their staff with the tools and capabilities to collaborate across service pathways and provide resolution in its entirety. 


For all citizens, the degree to which public sector organisations engender trust and act in the best interest of the citizen is consistently top of mind. A citizen’s relationship with public services is often non-negotiable, and as a result, the extent to which a citizen trusts an organisation is not only pivotal for satisfaction, but also for public service outcomes. Without trust, and no other choice, citizens may choose to not interact at all. Public sector organisations must identify events that erode trust and ensure they are redesigned as a priority, to prevent citizens from neglecting services.  

Citizen-led digitally enabled transformation

Three key areas for public sector organisations to focus on:

  • Measuring citizen experience against public service outcomes; there is an intrinsic link between citizen experiences and satisfaction with public sector services, and their resulting service outcome. Organisations must recognise this to understand how citizen behaviours can be changed, before delivering interventions to improve the public service outcomes of the citizens who need it most.
  • Empowering great people through digital transformation; the staff citizens interact with are the greatest driver of good experiences for public sector organisations, however, a friendly face is simply not enough. Organisations must empower their great people with the capabilities, using digital transformation as an enabler, to provide services to the best of their ability.  
  • Self-service for a preventative approach; harnessing digital to deliver a proactive and preventative service delivery model is a must for public sector organisations to improve citizen experiences, whilst also reducing operational costs. This can only be achieved through co-designing digital services with citizens, ensuring they’re seamless for citizens who are willing and able to engage digitally, whilst also providing a human touch for those who are unable to.