Here at Result 10 we talk a lot about life being about events, not services. We use this as sort of shorthand to remind ourselves that government needs to stop operating in silos and join services together so that people find them easier to use (after all, that’s what we’re all about).
To create these beautiful, seamless services of the future we know we need a better shared understanding of our customer’s current experience. So in late 2013 we kicked off a research project which has now been released (with an accompanying video) on ICT.govt.nz.
The research was both qualitative and quantative and the two main streams that ran parallel to each other. The first was a qualitative study to better understand four life events: beginning tertiary study, becoming a parent, retiring or immigrating to New Zealand. The second was a quantitative study of 1,500 New Zealand residents asking questions such as how many services respondents used per year, their experience of pain points and behavioural and attitudinal questions for a segmentation.
We hoped that by asking these questions we would get a better understanding of customer experience and better understand the need for Federated Service Delivery.
Finding out about life events
Life events are a time when people often need to deal across multiple government agencies. For example, if you’re having a baby you’ll most probably be dealing with the health system, as well as potentially contacting MBIE for information on paid parental leave, IR for undertaking paid parental leave, and Work and Income for financial assistance.
We asked people to write, draw or tell us their experience of undertaking these life events. One unexpected finding was just how cumbersome it can be for customers to have to join the dots between agencies. A number of mothers described to us the difficulty of having a new born and discovering that because they hadn’t completed the birth registration their financial support wasn’t flowing through.
Students also spoke movingly about how transition to study was huge for them. One student, Mike said, “They [services] are so blasé, but this is a really daunting thing for me.” His father had not studied in New Zealand and he was not in contact with his mother, so he felt he had no one to help navigate the student loan system. He would rather speak to someone in-person, rather than transact online. And he was not alone: we found that many people opted-out of digital channels when seeking reassurance that they were doing the right thing (which, with government, was often).
Another student spoke about his frustration at needing to prove who he was. For him every telephone call with StudyLink was part of a continued conversation, but for the agency contact centre staff it was always a new interaction, a new person. Students often liked to deal with government, so they could say – “I was dealing with them before.”
How can we offer them enough reassurance and personalisation so they would feel confident using and staying in the digital channel?
Asking the right questions
To complement the insights generated from the qualitative research we commissioned a market research company to conduct a telephone survey of 1,500 New Zealand residents.[i]
We began by asking them how many government services they used per year. The answer? A median of three. And often those three would be quite disparate services, such as completing a car registration, filing a tax return or using outpatient services at the hospital.
We then measured ‘pain points’; a list of difficulties people experience when dealing with government that emerged from some qualitative research we commissioned in 2012. The pain points measured things such as a problem with one government agency that could have been resolved if they’d spoken to another (experienced by 29 per cent of respondents) or a situation where they had to approach multiple agencies before finding one that could deal with their query (experienced by 33 per cent of respondents).
These pain points helped to point to the need for reuse and sharing of information[ii] across agencies that Federated Service Delivery could potentially help to address. For example, 44 per cent of respondents experienced a situation where they had to provide the same information to several government agencies; and 25 per cent of respondents had not just experienced this once or twice, but quite a few times.
Quantifying the pain points also uncovered those that mattered most to people. For example, 39 per cent of respondents had experienced a situation where they had missed out on a service or entitlement because they did not know it was available. Only six per cent of respondents reported experiencing this many times. However, it mattered a lot to 80 per cent of those six per cent.
A bit more about research
Research can never be all things to all people. There are always trade-offs you need to make about methodology; taking one approach often excludes another. There is often more you could have done; and there are different ways to ‘cut’ quantitative research and all research has its limitations. This research is no exception.
But, this research was never meant to be all things to all people. It was meant see if there was a case for integrated digital services.
We also know that as we work towards creating integrated digital services we’ll need to do more design research. Understanding how people use government services and how we can make it easier for them is fundamental to our success.
Over the coming months we’ll be sharing more findings from the research on this blog. For more information, please download the research in PDF form, or read it online.
[i] We also ran two smaller surveys of New Zealanders living overseas and New Zealanders without landlines.
[ii] Consent based sharing of information