Commercial brands spend a lot of time and effort on “know your customer” (KYC) initiatives. They collect information about people to understand if they are customers or prospective customers. The data yields insights that enable companies to reach people with messages that are relevant, timely and personal.
KYC data helps brands react and respond to people who have an issue or want to buy something. It allows them to anticipate each person’s unique needs. Much like brands, public institutions are motivated to serve people well, so they need to know people in the same ways. Government agencies need a “know your citizen” strategy.
Knowing citizens helps agencies design experiences that are efficient and enjoyable. The citizen experience – the holistic collection of interactions and the resulting perceptions that people have about a government agency – is driven by data that informs each step along the way. A critical outcome of a positive citizen experience is trust. The effort of making the interaction beneficial demonstrates that the agency values the citizens it serves. When people feel valued, it’s easier and more natural for them to feel trust.
Each agency will have a distinctive know your citizen strategy, because the services they provide and the people they serve are unique, but there are some fundamentals that apply to all. Every know your citizen initiative must include creating an identity, defining relationships and determining personal characteristics.
Create an Identity
Knowing someone means distinguishing them from other people. Names are how we tell one person from another in social settings. Names make us feel like individuals, yet many people have the same name, so we need more information to create an identity for a citizen. Adding more data such as a home address, telephone number, birthdate and other personally identifiable information makes it possible to recognize an individual to enable personal, one-to-one interactions.
Humans are social and we have connections to other people. Knowing a person requires understanding their relationships. For example, using data, we can find people living at the same address and associate them in a household. Sometimes those people in a household are part of the same family and sometimes they’re not. Familial relationships are powerful influencers of a person’s attitudes and behaviors. Being members of an organization or employees of the same company builds networks of people who behave in common ways that call for consistent experiences.
Know your citizen data makes it possible to understand the personal attributes that affect what people want and need. Demographics such as age, income, marital status, home ownership and the presence of children in the household are powerful predictors of behavior. Interests and behaviors make it possible to understand why people want a particular service. Propensities help anticipate what people need, making it possible to be ready for them at the point of engagement. Curating a relevant array of characteristics makes it possible to relate to citizens in a much more meaningful and relevant way.
According to Acxiom research, half of companies cite gaining “actionable insights” from their data as a challenge, and government agencies experience similar difficulties as they work to understand citizens better. Knowing identities, relationships and characteristics help refine data into insights that can be used to deliver better experiences.
Asya Smith, Vice President, Government and Public Sector at Acxiom, observes, “Agencies are better able fulfill their mission when they know the people they’re serving. Truly understanding citizens helps agencies deliver personal experiences that improve lives.”
People have high, maybe unreasonable, expectations for their interactions with government agencies. They believe the government has all of the data and technology in the world, so it should be able to provide the services people want in the most efficient manner. Sometimes, they don’t trust that the government has their best interests at heart. Agencies want to create a great experience for people, but each interaction requires an understanding of citizens’ identity, their relationship and the distinct characteristics that define who they are. Agencies must employ a know your citizen strategy to ensure they have the data and insights to deploy optimal experiences that lead to greater levels of trust.