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Canadians speak out on the future of government eServices

I just came across an excellent new research report from PWC. It has a rather long  name “Next Generation of  eservices – CitizenCompass – Enhancing service delivery in the Canadian public sector“, however it’s quite informative nonetheless. Essentially its purpose was to ask Canadians how they are interacting with government now, and how they would like to interact in the future regarding service delivery.

Quick Summary of Methodology

  • A representative sample of the Canadian population from the Ekos ProbIt on-line panel was selected
  • Total of 3,147 respondents with a 1.6% margin of error
  • Engagement methods/tools (provided by Ascentum):
    • Choicebook: More than the typical survey approach, the Choicebook is a research tool that focuses on fostering informed participation before asking for contributions from citizens. The Choicebook outlined the following key issues related to eServices:
      • Automatic notification services
      • Permission to share information
      • Location based services
      • ID renewal
      • Information sharing across governments
      • Online validation services
    • Idea Forum:A research tool used to encourage people to submit their own ideas while also considering, commenting and voting on other people’s ideas. It’s essentially a crowdsourcing approach. Questions were asked based on five themes:
      • General eServices
      • Mobile services
      • Location-based services
      • Smart messages
      • Open data

Findings I found noteworthy

  • What Canadians want from government service delivery:
    • Convenience (ease of access, channels and usability)
    • Cost (not willing to pay more unless it ‘s for jumping the line)
    • Control (willing to share info but they want control of it)
  • Mobile:
    • 10% of respondents stated they use smartphones to access government services; 32% stated they will do so in the future.
    • 7% of respondents stated they use tablets  to access government services; 30% stated they will do so in the future.
    • Top location-based services that interest Canadians include:
      1. Weather conditions
      2. Road construction
      3. Traffic info
      4. Walk-in health clinics
      5. Public transit info
      6. Passport office
  • Reasons for not using existing eServices:
    • 46% stated lack of knowledge as their main reason
    • 32% stated they were too hard to find
    • 54% stated a concern over privacy protection
  • The issue of identification/authentication security
    • Current situation: Governments can either build their own system of authentication or use external options such as those pioneered by banking institutions
    • Currently 40% of respondents are comfortable with the latter, and 81% with the former
  • General
    • 62% of respondents supported the idea of a single government identity card
    • Over 80% like the idea of receiving automatic notifications about available government services (i.e. messages on smartphones or home computers that send you a list of services most relevant to you at that time – for example if you give birth to a child, you get a notification about all the child services you need to think about)
    • Of those who like the idea, 40% would definitely register to use these services
    • 65% of respondents like the idea of taking their own photos and submitting them electronically to renew their identification
    • 19% of respondents would definitely pay more to skip the line when renewing ID; 56% of those willing to pay more are prepared to pay twice the base fee.
    • 53% of respondents stated that they are at least somewhat comfortable with the government sharing their SIN number with other levels of government (with permission).
    • Canadians hold federal and provincial governments to the same high standards of accountability that they hold private institutions such as banks and credit card companies

What this says to me

Aside from the clear mobile opportunities, the most stand-out statistics to me were that 46% of respondents stated “a lack of knowledge” as their main reason for not using eServices , 32% stating they were to hard to find, and 54% stating concerns over privacy protection.  In my opinion all three of these are clear marketing (not just communication) problems.

How would I address this?

Let’s take a fictitious scenario: Imagine Passport Canada created an eservice that allowed existing passport holders to renew their passport entirely online (including authentication and photo submission) for a minor fee. Now let’s imagine a high-level marketing approach was taken to address this. Here’s how it could be approached (note that all #’s are completely fictitious as I am making them up on the spot. Proper due diligence and research would obviously have to take place):

  • Marketing Goal: To get more people using online passport renewal and save human and financial resources as a result
  • Segmentation: Frequent leisure travellers, Frequent business travellers, Occasional travellers, Infrequent travellers
  • Target Audience: Frequent business travellers
  • Positioning: The payment of a small fee to renew your passport entirely online is well worth it when compared to the hassle, amount of time and energy that you will save by not having to go the passport office. Further the perceived security risk is much greater than the actual risk (insert statistic or other reasoning here).
  • Marketing Objectives:
    • Knowledge objective: To increase the number of business travellers that know they can now renew their passport entirely online from X% to X% by the end of the fiscal year
    • Belief objective: To increase the number of business travellers believing that renewing their passport online will actually save them time from X% to X% by the end of the fiscal year
    • Behaviour objective: To raise the number of business travellers using the online passport renewal service from X% to X% by the end of the fiscal year
  • Marketing Mix:
    • Product: A simple, intuitive, easy-to-complete online process for passport renewal (including photo taking via webcam)
    • Price: $X minimal fee (supported by the PWC research and assuming that frequent business travellers would likely be even more supportive of a small fee)
    • Place: Entirely online
    • Promotion: Website, PPC, cross-promotion on all existing channels including print,  online video demonstrations of how easy  to use the eService is (tagged strategically and uploaded to YouTube), social media and travel forum engagement, frequent flyer program partnerships,airport signage, limousine/taxi services, frequent flyer loungers,  testimonials from travellers, etc…
  • Evaluation: Benchmarks would need to be set first, however most evaluation would be via surveys, in-person interviews, line queue wait times, and web analytics tracking the eService usage and renewal turn-around time. Only the target audience would be evaluated in order to stay on scope.

Now go read the actual study and try to figure out other ways this free research can be used to make government service delivery more effective and efficient.

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Published inGovernmentInsightMobile

3 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your perspective of PwC’s Citizen Compass report with your readers.
    While governments are challenged with marketing effectively, the other consideration is around their level of interaction with citizens. For example a frequent business traveller for a large organization would likely only deal with the CRA once or twice a year. This infrequent interaction makes it a challenge to market to these people and raise awareness of new online government services. The same could apply at the provincial level, when people need to renew their driver’s license or health card every few years.
    That’s the reason why we proposed the concept of using online bank credentials:
    1. authenticate individuals
    2. harness a platform that citizens use on a frequent basis
    So, do you think there are marketing lessons in the private sector that can be used by government?
    Deborah, PwC Canada Public Sector marketer

  2. Thanks Deborah, the concept of using the banking credentials is interesting for sure, however as can be seen in the survey results, people still tend to be uncomfortable with that idea. A great deal of resources would have to be spent on changing that perception and backing up any claims that are made. Banks don’t have a strong correlation with the word “trust” these days. In terms of the infrequency issue, I would argue that that’s actually a non-issue in the 2012 world of pull marketing as opposed to push marketing. Someone wanting to renew their passport will be Googling the process. It doesn’t matter if that’s once every four years. Passport Canada needs to work on their web presence so that they have the right offer, at the right place and time, at the exact moment that frequent traveller is looking for the info. Especially now that we’re entering the world of mobile location-based services. All in all a very informative study. More people need to see it.

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