Governments face growing pressure to improve the customer experience for citizens accessing public services, according to a new Deloitte report titled One Size Fits Few: Using Customer Insight to Transform Government.

Leading businesses have trained people to expect high quality, personalized services -- standards that citizens are now applying to government. At the same time, governments around the world are confronting significant short- and long-term fiscal pressures -- from managing rising health care costs to rebuilding public infrastructure. According to the Deloitte study, governments can both reduce costs and improve the level of service they offer to their consumers by adapting to the public sector some of the customer-centered reforms pioneered by leading companies.

"Customer strategy is at the heart of the next wave of government transformation," said Greg Pellegrino, managing director, Global Public Sector, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. "Fueled by the success of consumer-oriented companies, more public sector leaders are revolutionizing their approach to service delivery. Those leaders who have set the gears in motion are seeing results from becoming more customer and employee focused."

Previous e-government efforts largely fell short of transforming government service delivery the way many of the original architects dreamed it would. In the rush to go from in line to online, public managers often did not stop to answer the basic questions that need to be answered in order to service customers effectively and efficiently: Who are my customers? And what do they want? Customer-centered transformation goes well beyond automating Industrial Era business processes. It requires first stepping back to understand the end-to-end experience from the user's perspective and using those insights to improve the experience offered to customers.

"Over the past decade we've seen many governments invest significant time and attention trying to make government more citizen-centric," said Bill Eggers, global director for public sector research, Deloitte Services LP. "But these efforts have largely failed to produce their intended results because improvement initiatives are often approached one dimensionally with public dollars frequently chasing the latest fix du jour."

Many government agencies, for example, have invested heavily in state-of-the-art customer relationship management (CRM) technology to give them a single, integrated view of their customers and maintain a mutually beneficial dialog with them. The problem is that many organizations view CRM as solely a technology issue and assign it to the IT group when in most cases the real issue is fundamentally rethinking the business model and culture of public services. Technology can enable this change but cannot, by itself, instigate and sustain it.

Many of the policy challenges before government today -- from addressing growing workforce retraining needs to controlling long-term health care costs through more effective preventative care approaches -- cannot be effectively addressed absent deep customer insight. These challenges require the customization of mass-delivered programs to the needs of individual citizens. To do this, public leaders can draw from the tools and techniques that have been successfully deployed commercially, to help tailor products and services to individual customer requirements.

"The study provides a collection of case studies, methods and tools government executives can use to convert an idea on how to improve the customer experience into an actual service enhancement, while reducing operational costs," said Dan Helfrich, co-author of the study and principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Public managers can utilize leading customer experience practices to bolster decision-making capabilities, enhance government's ability to execute on major program and policy initiatives, improve service delivery and reduce costs. Making effective use of these approaches requires public managers to first understand the full range of tools and techniques available to them and how and when to apply them. This study illustrates how leading governments are examining the challenges they face from the user's perspective, drawing from a robust customer experience toolkit as warranted, to improve the delivery and effectiveness of public services.