Voices from Accenture Public Service


Revenue agencies are under constant pressure. Technology is rapidly advancing, data is voluminous and security threats are continuously evolving. Frequent budget reductions and resulting staffing issues are making doing more with less the new “norm.” Given these pressures, the need for agencies to reduce customer errors and increase compliance has never been greater. Errors are expensive for agencies to resolve and Accenture research shows that a large percentage of taxpayers still do not have confidence in understanding their obligations, and as a result make filing errors and fail to comply.[1]

In this environment, revenue agencies have a powerful tool at their disposal: the customer experience. It is an underutilised strategic asset gathering dust in the toolbox. What many agencies don’t recognise is that engaging effectively with the customer can directly impact agency outcomes.  If the experience is simpler, easier and less frustrating for customers, they will do what is needed. The result? There is greater voluntary compliance and there are fewer errors, which goes straight to an agency’s bottom line.

Take John, for example. In addition to working full-time for an employer, John becomes an Uber driver at night. Unsure about how to handle his new independent contractor income, he visits his revenue agency’s website. When he queries to find answers to his filing question, he receives ambiguous results and pages of content written in hard to understand legal jargon that is impossible to get through on his mobile phone. In a fit of frustration, John leaves the site without finding the answers he needs. He may try again another time but he’s just as likely to never revisit the topic again.

But what if the agency had put John and other customers like him at the heart of how its services are designed and delivered? When John came to the website, the agency would have run an analysis against his historical and current page visits, click-path and search terms to understand his intent.  Based on John’s historical returns, the agency infers with confidence that John has a dependent child likely to be attending college soon. Armed with this information, the agency could dynamically deliver personalised tax topics to John. Topics include the correct method to report temporary or contract employee income, how to correctly track and report mileage and vehicle maintenance and how to correctly report and track funds that are invested for future use toward educational expenses and correctly claim educational credits. The likelihood that John would correctly report his income and investments rises dramatically.

This is a simple example that barely touches the potential power of personalised customer engagement. Using customer analytics, modeling, and modern technologies, agencies can take advantage of the valuable data at their fingertips to deliver a dynamic, contextually relevant, tailored experience across any channel at any time. Millions of customers can then find the information to understand their obligations more completely and file a return without errors requiring agency intervention.

Countless public sector agencies are using this approach to create better outcomes including those in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Netherlands, Catalonia, United Kingdom, Ireland, and the United States. Others conceptually understand the strategic opportunity inherent in the customer experience but don’t know how to begin.

The way to start is by creating a user-centered vision that aligns with your agency’s compliance objectives and establishes clear ownership and accountability for the customers’ end-to-end journey. Design Thinking and Service Design methodologies are perfectly suited for this effort. Then the agency must work through the end-to-end journey and understand the domino effects the vision will have on the organisation. It may change skill needs to incorporate experts in customer experience design. It will likely change organisational structures and processes, culture and governance. And new technologies and changes in data and content management could be needed.

Revenue agencies aren’t starting with the advantages of the technology platforms and personalisation capabilities of commercial businesses. But the same magnitudes of customer engagement opportunities are before them. Agencies can proactively transform customer experiences to reduce stress, anxiety, and confusion. In doing so, they can help customers better understand their obligations, fulfill those obligations right the first time, and, as a result, reduce errors and improve agency outcomes. It’s time to pull the strategic tool out of the toolbox and put it to work.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on customer engagement in revenue agencies. Feel free to comment below.

[1] Accenture Taxpayer Survey 2017

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