Customer segmentation could aid service delivery: CGI

Federal government departments need to adopt a new approach to service-delivery that focuses on the evolving needs of the citizenry, say executives of CGI Group Inc.

“”Up until this point, most of the thinking (related to service-delivery)

has primarily been all about designing the best product,”” explains Chris Lynch, vice-president of strategy services for CGI. “”What we’re really pushing is that you have to understand what the citizen’s needs are. Everyone in a services organization needs to have a working knowledge of those needs.””

In a bid to be “”more than a company that delivers IT solutions,”” CGI has promoted its “”customer segmentation”” strategy to federal departments as a way to modernize service-delivery. Customer segmentation has been used extensively in the private sector since the early 1980s, but the strategy has only recently emerged as an “”important approach in the development of government programs and services,”” Lynch said.

The strategy has been adopted by CGI’s strategic consulting arm, which is now working with two federal government departments, one of which Lynch describes as “”very large.”” This department is three to six months away from launching “”the whole suite of improved services to citizens in multiple places,”” Lynch added. After that, the department will measure how to institutionalize these improvements. This part is expected to take about a year or two, he says.

The strategy identifies distinct citizen groups using a number of variables, such as demographic, behavioural (risk-takers and risk-avoiders), technographic (channel service, technology), life stage (children, youth, seniors) and values (religious, political and cultural). Best practice segmentation models are usually based on such things as citizen market research and “”interaction”” data.

Segmentation deals with how you can rationalize the reorganization of policies, programs and departments around a focus on the citizen, explains Brian Freeman, vice-president of single-window government initiatives at CGI, describing citizen-centric service-delivery as “”a train that the government cannot get off of, because the public is riding it.””

New Zealand’s national government has embraced the strategy by applying it to the administration of social assistance, Lynch said.

“”They take a vertical approach, do assessments on people’s skills, and match them in terms of profiles, jobs and partners,”” he said. “”It’s like a dating process. It’s a very easy example that can be imported into Canada around the employment insurance program. (New Zealand) is learning that it’s not only about the transaction of finding someone a job, it’s actually a life-long learning concept.””

New Zealand had reduced the number people who are on unemployment by 21 per cent, Lynch added.

Currently, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency employs its own segmentation strategy, which looks at “”personal experiences from employees with certain clientele groups to the analysis of certain trends,”” said Dawna LaBonte, an agency spokeswoman. She said segmentation is especially useful to ensure each type of taxpayer receives the right information to file their income tax return. For example, those who have social benefits receive a return form that is tailored to their needs. The strategy also comes in handy when looking at who takes advantage of e-filing and tele-filing.

Getting federal departments to embrace CGI’s methods will require a lot of time, Lynch acknowledged. He also recognized the chances of resistance to the strategy are high.

“”There’s a bit of a leap of faith for those people that do not have an understanding of the method, tool or statistics,”” he said. “”But once you get the policy people online, the program people and service people will follow through.””

Admittedly, the process can span a number of years, says Lynch. The first step is to “”communicate the voice of the citizen across the organization and (developing) an understanding … of best practices. Once we have this citizen understanding, you have to bring in a different approach to interpreting that need,”” he said.

Inevitably, the long-term adoption of this process will result in more sophisticated allocation of resources and services improvements, said Lynch.

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