Assuming that you buy into the idea that there are mutual benefits to be realized when public sector organizations commit to providing an exceptional experience to their stakeholders, the next critical step is putting that commitment into action.
Rationally, we know that it’s not as simple as standing up in front of your employees and declaring that “Today’s the day we start giving our stakeholders a great experience every time they interact with us!” but that is actually what seems to happen in many organizations! The leader makes a declaration just like this and then expects the team to “make it so”.
However, of course, it’s not that simple but it can actually be relatively easy to achieve when you focus on three important elements that, when combined, work together to position any public sector organization to give its stakeholders an exceptional experience every time they interact with it.
1 Determine What an Exceptional Stakeholder Experience REALLY Looks Like
Before you can give your stakeholder a great experience you need to understand what that means, looks, and feels like for your stakeholder. While you may THINK that you know your stakeholder and what an exceptional experience is for them, you need to take the time to (1) identify all the assumptions you are making about what your stakeholder wants and values, (2) create an experience straw model, and then (3) validate that you’ve got it all right (i.e. your experience model AND all essential underlying assumptions).
The best way to do this is to check in with your stakeholder and talk with them until you understand which of the value-creating emotions they are looking for in their interactions with you. Most importantly, you need to understand what you must do to make your stakeholder feel pleased and happy as a result of their interactions with you. Once you think you know what these experience attributes are then you must put them into action and test out whether what you are doing is ACTUALLY making your stakeholder feel the way they want to feel as a result of their interactions with you. This often means going back and asking your stakeholder about their experience and, if relevant, exploring what specifically could be improved. Armed with this feedback, you must invest the time and effort needed to continually tweak what you do in an effort to perfect your organization’s ability to give your stakeholder an exceptional experience at every interaction with you.
2 Design and Resource Your Key Stakeholder Processes
Public sector organizations that excel at giving their stakeholders a great experience deliberately design their key processes to deliver the desired experience systematically and consistently. Processes that impact the stakeholder, including their various touch points with your organization, must be designed through their eyes. You can do this by leveraging your understanding of your stakeholder’s needs and expectations, and asking yourself “What feelings and emotions will this process or interaction create, and will that experience deliver value from the stakeholder’s perspective?” Smart organizations use the answers to this question to redesign existing processes so that they still do the job while ALSO satisfying the physical and emotional needs of their stakeholder.
Sometimes, however, it’s not good enough just to redesign a process. Often a process needs additional resources, supports, and infrastructure to run at peak levels of performance. For example, a better, more functional website might be required to make your organization easy to do business with (often a key stakeholder hope/expectation). You must be sure that your organization is ready to put the right resources behind your redesigned processes – without them your process redesign efforts will almost certainly be sub-optimized when it comes to having the desired impact on the stakeholder experience.
3 Empower Your Employees
While improving your stakeholder’s experience through stakeholder-centered process design is a must, it will only take you so far. Why? Well, first, when you design stakeholder-centered processes you are designing with the stakeholder GROUP in mind. When you interact with individual stakeholders you quickly discover that each one has unique needs and expectations. It can be virtually impossible to build your processes to accommodate variations in individual needs and expectations, however that is where your employees save the day! Your people play a critical role in making the deviations and decision necessary to deliver a positive stakeholder experience particularly when an individual stakeholder’s needs vary from what your process expects.
Your employees are also a very important piece in the stakeholder experience picture because, after all, it often takes human interaction to create and convey emotions and feelings. Even though you can design your processes to elicit feelings of being valued, trusted, and cared for (for example), it takes caring and empathetic employees with high levels of emotional intelligence to make the experience, and resulting emotions, come to life for your stakeholder. This is why it’s very important to employ stakeholder-facing employees who have an understanding of, and passion for producing, the type of stakeholder experience you are trying to create.
To help passionate employees deliver an exceptional stakeholder experience they must be empowered to make the decisions required to give it to each and every stakeholder from interaction to interaction. Support your employees in making the right decisions for both your organization AND the stakeholder by:
● Spending appropriately on employee training that tells them about your stakeholder and the desired stakeholder experience;
● Showing them what that experience looks and feels like by providing examples and role models;
● Giving your employees the tools, technologies, and information they need to do the right thing;
● Reinforcing that providing an exceptional stakeholder experience every time is a priority and demonstrating its important through measurement and performance incentives; and
● Rewarding and recognizing employee actions that support a great stakeholder experience AND leveraging employees’ ideas on how to make the stakeholder experience even better.
The result of this investment is a passionate and engaged workforce that is committed to, and adept at, delivering an exceptional experience to every stakeholder who interacts with your organization.
Many leaders in public sector organizations shy away from focusing on the stakeholder experience – largely because they don’t appreciate its importance in creating mutual benefits for both the stakeholder and the organization. Others understand the importance and are ready to make the commitment – they have the will but are unsure about how to deliver the desired stakeholder experience.
Public sector organizations that are recognized as being stakeholder-centered have made an organizational commitment to the stakeholder experience - both in their values and in the steps they take to put that commitment into action. Furthermore, they realize that maintaining a focus on delivering an exceptional stakeholder experience is an ongoing commitment that never ends. Why? Because stakeholder needs, expectations, and what they are looking for in an experience changes over time AND the ways in which organizations can deliver those experiences, particularly when technology is a key factor, continues to evolve over time as well.
Has your public sector organization made the commitment to deliver an exceptional experience to every stakeholder? Are you taking the necessary steps to put your commitment into action? What do you need to start doing to get on the path to making your public sector organization a stakeholder-centered organization?
Leverage these three essential elements and get started today!