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Pre-pandemic, human and social services (HSS) organisations globally were dealing with increased consumerism and pressures from government to do more with less, workforce limitations and the need to embrace digital transformation.

Today’s service customers are connected and empowered with information and choice. They expect more from HSS organisations than ever before, including personalised experiences that involve minimal time and effort. People expect to be able to go online, get the information they need and interact with services at any time. As a result, meeting expectations is becoming ever more challenging.

Pre-pandemic, KPMG International commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct an online survey of 345 HSS decision makers in Australia, Canada, Germany, India, the United Kingdom and the United States to better understand their goals, investments and challenges involved in establishing customer-centric strategies.1 This research revealed the following insights.

  • In the United Kingdom 70 percent of HSS organisations were making their customer-centric strategy a priority but few are exceeding their customers' expectations. Meeting the needs of customers can be challenging because there are a range of complex competing needs and desires. In addition, it can be a challenge to think of residents who are compelled, e.g. vulnerable children or subject to enforcement, as customers. Nonetheless, understanding the customer experience is key to meeting (and exceeding) expectations. Globally, customer centric strategy was seen as even more important as nearly 8 out of 10 HSS organisations were making their customer-centric strategy a priority. 
  • This customer-centric priority will focus budgets and 97 percent of HSS organisations in the United Kingdom planned to invest in and strengthen customer experience capabilities. Globally only 7 in 10 organisations said they were providing the right services at the right time and under half said they did so through a range of integrated channels. The global research revealed roughly or more had aligned their workforce, with operational strategy, and supply chain, but many were still working to integrate services with those of other providers.
  • In the United Kingdom data and analytics represents an area for significant improvement. Only 42 percent of HSS organisations see their data and analytics capabilities as enabling them to deliver effective customer services. This opportunity for improvement is not limited to the United Kingdom as even fewer organisations globally use data and analytics effectively. There are significant challenges in converting data into insight and insight into strategy but the opportunity to improve outcomes for vulnerable people is huge.
  • When it came to creating a customer-centric organisation and culture supported by ongoing skills development and a nimble, empowered workforce with aligned performance management, only 24 percent of respondents globally rated their organisation’s abilities in these areas as excellent. The United Kingdom is further behind the curve as only 22 percent of HSS organisations rated themselves excellent in these areas. 

Pre-pandemic challenges have also been amplified as a result of COVID-19 and has forced the sector to transform and cope in new operating environments. Research carried out for KPMG International by Forrester Consulting in May to July 2020 with HSS leaders in 10 countries and territoriesrevealed a range of disruptions to business operations, with roughly a third reporting either reductions in salaries, increased security risks, increased need to reduce costs, losses of revenue or shifts to a remote workforce. In the United Kingdom we have also seen many of these issues.

Embracing digital transformation has been challenging for the sector globally. Governments and providers have consistently responded to increasing demand by spending more on direct services, and consequently their tendency has been not to take a comprehensive approach to investing in technology. That approach was reasonable until about five years ago, but the issues mentioned above, and the speed of change now means that HSS organisations not investing in technology likely will be left behind.

COVID-19 adds a further reason for HSS organisations to improve their use of technology. Research commissioned by KPMG International has found that the global pandemic has caused HSS organisations to prioritize digital transformation strategies, with 71 percent of respondents accelerating elements of their existing strategies and 67 percent increasing their digital transformation budget3.  Globally, we’ve seen trends in movement to online services, increased collaboration between organisations, and governments pushing services into re-designs based on what customers need. Here in the United Kingdom, we’ve seen all of these trends.

The pandemic has fundamentally altered many elements of society. For this sector these changes have been rapid but also sometimes positive, as many people have come to appreciate the great value of the care workforce’s contribution. Organisations have an opportunity to maintain this positive momentum, adopting better technology to build a new role for HSS in society and the economy.

Transforming any organisation is difficult but particularly when it serves some of the most vulnerable members of society. At KPMG in the United Kingdom, we use our experience and deep understanding of human and social services – coupled with our insights from transformation in other industries, to work with clients to demystify future opportunities and turn them into actionable next steps in a digital transformation journey.

For more on the global factors challenging the sector and driving the need for connected, digitally enabled, and consumer-focused care systems, read KPMG International’s Connected support and care: The future of human and social services. This thought leadership also provides insights of where consumer-centric transformation is taking place in the world.

Contact us today to get more insights on consumer-centricity in the United Kingdom HSS organisations, or to get a maturity assessment of your organisation's consumer-centric capabilities and insights into how your care system can become more connected.

1 A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of KPMG, December 2018.

2 A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of KPMG, May-July 2020.

3 ibid