ARCHIVED - Overview and Strategic Implications

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There are a number of surprising and practical insights gleaned from this benchmark awareness study. In the ensuing report, we review the more detailed findings. Here, we highlight some of the central conclusions and implications of the research.

  1. Going in imagery vague, but surprisingly positive
    Service Canada is not a tabula rasa, but it does provide a fresh and positive start for conveying the Government of Canada’s new philosophy and methodology for connecting to Canadians federal service needs. Although Canadians have some preconceptions and some experientially based impressions of Service Canada, the organization is not hobbled with any strong negatives out of the gate. Canadians are, for the most part, providing benefit of the doubt.

    Given its recent launch, it is not surprising to find that there is low familiarity with the organization: only three per cent can identify Service Canada without prompting, and another 16 per cent report having heard of the organization when prompted. While many more Canadians have heard of 1-800 O’Canada and the main Government of Canada website (two channels which have also tended to be rated very positively), there is still room to build awareness here as well.

  2. Experience reinforces comfort and confidence
    There is a highly significant positive linkage between experience with Service Canada and positive impressions of the organization. Obviously this is a strong asset and one which should be exploited further as the organization matures and its outreach broadens. There are a couple of important parallel findings related to this.

    Firstly, it appears that the positive reinforcement effect for transactional experience is either unique to Service Canada or at least much more pronounced there. The smaller incidence of those in contact with the federal government through other organizations does not seem to show this effect (either that, or it is much more muted).

    Secondly, the effect appears to decay through time. Most recent users reveal a much stronger impression boost than those who were in contact further in the past. This suggests that both broadening and intensifying the connections with Canadians should yield brand strengthening.

    Earlier research has shown positive service transactions produce a stronger sense of federal value-for- money and perhaps even heightened national unity. These linkages must not be neglected in a period where there has been steady erosion in both the perception of value-for-money and relevance from federalism and a modest, but steady and significant diminution of national attachment over the past decade.

  3. Canadians overwhelmingly prefer to be seen as “citizens”
    Canadians overwhelmingly prefer to be seen as “citizens”, not merely “customers”, “clients”, or “taxpayers”. Canadians assume and expect good service from the Government of Canada. There is, however, clearly another even more significant layer of expectations embodied in the insistence to be seen as citizens. The established linkages between approval of federal government and good service may be at the heart of this citizen first preference.

  4. Hierarchy for measuring performance goes well beyond traditional service models
    “Get it right first” and skip the faux empathy. The public clearly eschew anachronistic “Mom and Pop storefront” service models for an approach which accurately and reliably understands citizen needs and provides the right knowledge and information; notions of understanding and reliability eclipse the traditional canons of good service. Efficiency is also a crucial concern, but sheer transactional quality is actually secondary. For the majority, if the hours of operation for the in-person offices were to be extended, weeknights would be most convenient.

    Interestingly, while accountability is still an important principle, it has shown the most movement (downward) since last testing and several pieces of evidence converge to suggest that the public are not seized with overwhelming accountability concerns. The organization is seen as decisively trustworthy and this advantage is larger amongst recent users. There may even be a recognition that while accountability is important, it should not be at the expense of efficiency and responsiveness.

  5. IT and Internet a given, but multi-channel delivery requirements persist
    Only one in five Canadians do not expect to use the Internet with Service Canada (only five per cent of the under 25 cohort and 10 per cent of the 70 per cent of Canadians online). This is a rapid and breathtaking transformation of the recent past and underlines the importance of abandoning traditional service conceptions. This does not, however, mean that multi-channel delivery will not remain crucial. It also does not preclude growing physical outreach in communities, an idea that is supported virtually unanimously by Canadians.

    It does mean that the Internet has emerged as an incipient mass medium and increasingly has become invisible to the same extent that telephone and television faded from novel visibility for previous generations. Indeed, Canadians are increasingly experienced Internet users. They know what works for them and what does not. For example, Canadians remain largely unchanged from 2003 in terms of their “starting point” (i.e. how they would go about finding government information) and generally divide into two camps: online and the telephone. The relative appeal of different media varies profoundly by different market segments.

    Some preliminary notes on market segmentation Statistical analyses of the data reveal four distinct clusters or "types" of citizens. The department's thinking about communications, branding, and service delivery can be refined around these segments:

Four Segments
Segment Communications
Older Comfortable 23.3 per cent Low
Savvy Workers 30.0 per cent High
Trusting Core Clients 24.2 per cent Medium
Mistrustful Skeptics 22.5 per cent High

The four groups are quite distinct in terms of their needs, capacities and attitudes to Service Canada.

Group 1 – Older Comfortable

This group is more likely to be made up of seniors (females are also overrepresented) who tend to not view themselves as using services, despite the fact that there is a high incidence of OAS, GIS, and CPP usage (these are probably seen as earned entitlements rather than program services). Service Canada is relatively invisible to them, which may be fine although there is a strategic issue as to whether it would be worthwhile raising the department’s visibility with this segment. It may not be as important because the segment is already highly trusting and positively disposed to the federal government, despite the murkiness of their views.

This segment is probably a fairly low communications priority. As long as current service standards are at least maintained, they will remain very comfortable. Explicit messages of service transformation may actually raise concerns.

Group 2 – Savvy Workers

The largest segment, members of this group are conditionally highly trusting and very amenable to new technologies and service transformation. This is a knowledgeable client group that includes prime working age families. They are especially wary of privacy and identity issues, but are nonetheless strongly supportive of technology based service improvements.

Issues surrounding skills, career and labour market information, and family issues are of great interest, as are looming issues of retirement and health (both for them and their elderly parents). As with most groups, passports and identity issues are also of acute interest.

Groups 3 – Trusting Core Clients

Like the “Savvy Workers”, this segment is directly and currently connected to Service Canada. Although slightly younger (more students), they are also entering the prime working and child rearing stages of the lifecycle. They are the most trusting and confident in Service Canada and their attitudes are very positive (more so the more they deal with the department).

This group is technologically capable, but are more interested in multi-channel delivery than the “Savvy Workers”. Further, they do not share the same apprehensions about privacy and are likely to require less direct communications attention.

Group 4 – Mistrustful Skeptics

This is by far the most negatively disposed segment. In a nutshell, they do not see the federal government as particularly trustworthy and they cast themselves on more of the “payer” rather than the beneficiary side of the equation. Some of their views border on hostile.

This group, rich in middle-aged Canadians, requires careful attention as they tend to be active in expressing their views (i.e. discontent). It might be prudent to consider ways of extending outreach to have this group see themselves as users rather than simply footing the bill. Passports are a promising case in point. This group will also be more impressed with messages of efficiency, accountability and improved sense of the overall benefits associated with Service Canada.

Bottom Line

The benchmark study shows a positively disposed public leaning favourably to the new philosophy and results embodied in Service Canada. Indeed, most Canadians lean very positively and are prepared to give the department the benefit of the doubt. More impressively, positives are reinforced by experience, an advantage which appears to be relatively unique to Service Canada.

Importantly, the public are showing clear preferences, expectations, and capacities, which underline the need for a profound rethinking of what constitutes ideal service. The ideal service model of a decade ago looks nothing like its contemporary counterpart.

  • It’s about “citizens” not just customers.
  • More emphasis on “getting things right” (i.e. accurate information, understanding clients and their needs).
  • Less emphasis on notions of personalized and compassionate service.
  • Technology and Internet are increasingly “a given”, but not for all types of interactions.
  • The service afterglow decays rapidly; need to strengthen the frequency and intensity of outreach
    (e.g. passports).
  • The citizen perspective involves broadening beyond the simple transaction to both community presence and a national narrative.
  • Efficiency and accountability are important ingredients for success, particularly for certain segments of the population (e.g., the mistrustful skeptics).

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