Let’s say you’re a Victorian citizen and you want to book a marriage ceremony. Could you retrieve the right form, gather the right identity documents and get your partner to sign it before a short deadline?
This is the reality of completing tasks with the Victorian Government. There are hundreds of life events that require people to transact with the public service, and while they can range anywhere from a simple phone call to a traumatic and time-intensive chore, each has the potential to make your life more difficult than it should be, and often when you need it least.
Not only does this type of problem require a rethink of how citizens complete tasks, but deserves a total reimagining of the entire service experience from end-to-end.
We were asked to improve the way every Victorian citizen interacts with the state government by creating and monitoring a fully functioning service centre.
We were to create two trial service centres——one in Melbourne city and another in Shepparton, a major regional town in Victoria.
Each centre needed to capture feedback on what Victorians were thinking, doing and saying when completing a ‘transaction’; anything from booking a marriage ceremony to requesting a death certificate or updating your driver licence.
By observing the ways citizens completed these transactions, we could explore the reasons why they succeeded or failed, and test ways to make them better.
In order to achieve accurate and meaningful feedback from Victorian citizens, the trial service centres were designed and constructed in a way that made them feel authentic——like a ‘real’ Victorian Government customer service centre might.
A large number of tasks and a short time period meant we had to move fast. We began in consultation with award-winning Melbourne architects Figureground. Together we worked through the concept design of the two stores, looking at the relationship between concierges and customers, how customers might ‘flow’ through the space, the relationship between customers and computer hardware, and the role of measurement at each of these touchpoints.
We tested and learned in a full-scale, simulated environment, allowing for rapid improvement to the entire system of service. Service deficiencies and customer pain points were identified quickly and addressed in near real-time——decisions were made in a far more ‘real’ context and environment.
Using the developed floorplan layouts as a starting point, we quickly built one-to-one scale service centres within our warehouse/studio. We used cardboard boxes to build out the models, getting a sense of how customers flowed through the space, and allowing us to change layouts and test the effects quickly and easily.
The full-scale prototype was also the ideal environment to train concierges. Exposing concierge staff to more accurate customer interactions allowed them a more accurate sense of how an interaction might play out in real life. Recording and playback of these interactions allowed stakeholders to optimise training documents and prepare adequately for the service launch.
Building a scale model and simulating customer interaction (in the form of service walkthroughs) also allowed our team to optimise the placement and performance of analytics hardware and adjust the layout and scale of furniture.
A complete system of brand identity plays a powerful role in setting the tone for interaction between citizen, government and information.
We created a brand and a system of visual language that was both cohesive and consistent as well as having street-level appeal——particularly because little-to-no marketing activity was planned. In this instance, the brand needed to feel contemporary and it needed to be interesting without being intimidating or pretentious.
We used moodboards as a rapid and cost-effective tool to prototype the ‘look and feel’ of the brand and establish its tone. It allowed for swift exploration of different typographic treatments, colour palettes and iconography——as well as informing the selection of physical materials for architectural and interior design purposes. Considering the semi-permanent nature of this project, moodboards served as an effective visual communication tool in discussion with key stakeholders and for cost-effective iteration.
Different applications across street-level signage, internal wayfinding and motion design (for street-facing LCD screens) were all important brand design considerations, as were uniforms, digital screen designs, newspaper advertisements and promotional posters.
In keeping with the theme of rapid and cost-effective development, screen designs were developed concurrently with the cardboard service centre prototype.
It was important that digital touchpoints be tested within the context in which they were going to be used. Ergonomic considerations quickly became apparent, as did the interactions that service centre staff had when assisting with digital transactions.
The portal interface made it simple for citizens to find transactions, providing a cohesive interface to explore and use existing government websites involved in the trial.
But most importantly, it was a central point of observation and measurement, allowing the technology team to track how customers were searching for transactions, how long the transactions were taking to complete, and if customers were completing the transactions——with or without concierge assistance.
The trial drew a huge amount of customers, all of whom completed a number of transactions in various ways. We designed the service centres in such a way that we could learn from the full range of customers as they interacted with the space and the digital portal.
In order to construct a detailed picture of the customer experience, we conducted three months of extensive surveys, interviews and observational research within the service centres. This research was also supported by a suite of digital reporting tools, including industry standard tools like Google Analytics (for real-time monitoring of the transaction portal).
These tools allowed us to make better decisions throughout the trial as well as identify a series of insights including how people perceived government, the service pain-points and the requirements of citizens.
These insights have now informed an evaluation model for government transactions, outlining the key barriers that customers identified in existing systems and will be used to ensure service flows are designed to offer an optimal, low-barrier, frictionless experience in the future.
The Victorian Government Customer Service Centre Trial is one of the largest and most significant surveys of Victorians’ preferences ever undertaken.
We learnt that Victorians see government very differently to the private sector. They value certainty, consistency, predictability and speed. The state government are now left with a rather tough design challenge——to be there when citizens need them most, to offer support quickly, then disappear.
Creating a relevant, digital-first public service experience required a thoroughly citizen-centric mindset. For the government to cater to all citizens, we sought to better understand the current pain points of all citizens, including recent migrants, the elderly and people with physical disabilities.
The trial allowed us to gather insights, but also allowed us to prototype the rapid delivery of service analytics, data-driven decision-making and support modes that are required to operate a modern public service.
There is plenty to be excited about. Particularly as the Victorian Government continues to innovate with new technologies and new delivery models to create public value into the future.
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