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Result 10 customer research

Understanding customer experience, behaviours and attitudes to government services. 


In this section




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The executive summary, conclusion and glossary sections of the research are available in this section. You can also download the full Result 10 customer research (PDF 1.75 MB).  We are currently working on making further sections available in HTML. If you have any questions or issues relating to accessibility, please contact  

Executive summary

Life is about events, not services. When customers contact government they do so in order to achieve an outcome greater than the agency’s own. But often services reflect agency priorities and silos, rather than customers’ needs and circumstances. As we move to a digital by default model of service provision we need to place customers at the centre of service design and delivery. This research provides us with the evidence base for a shared understanding of customer experience.

The research tells us that most customers used three or fewer government services, while more than 80 per cent had an on-going financial interaction with government such as KiwiSaver, superannuation or a student loan.

In total, 51 per cent of customers experienced pain points

The more customers used government services, the more pain points they experienced. And the more pain points they experienced, the more they mattered.

The life events mapped by customers show us that life events are seldom linear. Customers navigating a change in circumstances often felt the onus was on them to join the dots between agencies and they used multiple channels to complete transactions. The research participants were mainly ‘privacy pragmatists’ – happy for their information to be shared and reused if it led to a better service. They wanted reassurance that what they were doing was right and acknowledgment that agencies had received all the information they required to progress applications.


The need for reassurance plays into people’s channel preference: while the quantitative research found the preference for completing transactions digitally was greater than current use, more than half of customers still preferred non-digital channels to complete transactions. They wanted to be sure that they were doing the right thing and felt the best way to get that reassurance was in person.

Findings on customers’ behaviours and attitudes have been pulled together to create a segmentation of the customer base. Seven segments are presented that offer a better understanding of who our customers are.

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Life is about events, not services. When customers contact government they do so in order to achieve a goal greater than the agency’s own. For customers, dealing with government is not an end in itself, rather it is a means to an end. They renew a passport because they want to travel. They apply for a Student Loan because they want to study. They ask about financial assistance because they have lost their job.

Even when the impetus for transaction is prompted by government – renewing a driver’s licence, filling out a departure card – customers interact so that they can continue with their lives – so that they can legally drive their children to school or travel to the Sunshine Coast for a break from the winter.

Infrequent transactions

Our research shows that most customers transact with government infrequently, most often two or three times a year when they carry out the most common of transactions. However, others transact more frequently, often around life events – moments of big change in their lives, when their circumstances alter and they need one-off or ongoing support from government. At these times customers are often frustrated by agency silos or lack of clarity about eligibility to entitlements. They seek reassurance from government that they are doing the right thing, but often find that reassurance elusive.

Going digital by default

As we move to a digital by default model of service provision, Result 10 is committed to placing customers at the centre of service design and delivery. We are committed to creating a future in which services are built around customers’ life events and needs, rather than traditional agency boundaries, and believe the move to digital offers us that opportunity.

The majority of transactions handled by the New Zealand public service every year go smoothly and overall there are high levels of satisfaction with public services, as demonstrated by the State Service Commission’s Kiwis Count Survey results. However, the move to a customer centric model of provision means we need to better understand customer experience in its totality. We need to understand a customer’s end to end journey, from the first phone call to the last letter, and why journeys may not be seamless. We need to understand customers’ points of pain.

Much good work is already underway within agencies as they use the move to digital to streamline processes and redesign customer experience. However, for us to achieve improvement across the whole public service we need a shared understanding of our customers’ current experience. This report is intended to underpin that shared understanding and act as a body of evidence from which we can design services, and further engage with customers as services evolve and their experiences change.

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The research had three objectives:

  • To understand the frequency of use of government services
  • To quantify known pain points: how frequently they occurred and how much they mattered
  • To identify behavioural and attitudinal customer segments for the purpose of designing services that are easy to use.

The objectives were designed to help uncover the need for integrated digital services as set out in Action Five of the Result 10 Blueprint (PDF 5.9 MB). Integrated digital services seek to place customers at the centre of government service delivery by removing the artificial demarcations that the government agency structure imposes on people, particularly around significant life events. This means enabling customers to use the channels and service providers of their choice, and allowing them to complete all of the government service requirements around their life events without having to navigate the range of government agencies and repeatedly providing the same information.

Understanding experience and need

While we are interested in improving the digital experience, we intentionally omitted detailed questioning of the experience of using digital channels or intention of using digital channels in the future. Our reasons for this were twofold. Firstly, we wanted to generate an understanding of experience and need, broader than one based on use of current digital channels. Secondly, we wanted to understand actual behaviours rather than generating statistics about the demand for imagined services, which would be hard to measure with any accuracy.

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What are life events?

Everybody experiences life events, from the rites of passage in early adulthood such as leaving school, moving out of home, beginning university or starting a first job, to the common life events in adulthood, such as becoming a parent, getting married or buying a house. Life events can be planned (such as beginning university or getting married), unplanned (such as the death of a spouse, or a serious illness) or recurring (such as moving house or starting a new job).

Life events are often life changing. They can be frightening and overwhelming as well as bringing happiness and new opportunities. At the same time they bring people into contact with a myriad of government services, which can often be confusing and stressful when these events are overwhelming in themselves.

In this report we have measured the percentage of people undergoing life events every year and visualised a selection of the user journey maps created by participants in our workshops. 

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Our story so far….

This research builds on research previously undertaken by Result 10, particularly work completed in 2012 that mapped customers’ mental models of government, uncovered pain points when dealing with government services, and created a set of customer personas. Personas are fictional customers created to generate empathy and understanding of different customer types, while segments are a way of dividing the customer base by characteristics we know they share. The segmentation in this report is based on respondents’ experiences, behaviours and attitudes.

This report furthers that work in two main ways. Firstly, it quantifies the pain points: setting out the percentage of people they affect, how often they occur and how much they matter. Secondly, it offers a behavioural and attitudinal segmentation of the customer base that compliments the set of Result 10 personas. The Result 10 personas were created to represent the different types of customers of government services rather than offering insights into how many customers might fit each profile. This research does not place segmentation on top of the personas, but rather has created segments based on quantitative information of actual behaviours and attitudes. 

Result 10 Blueprint

The research also speaks to the Result 10 Blueprint (PDF 5.9 MB), endorsed by Cabinet in July 2014, which sets out the customer vision for the future of digital government services.

“It will be so easy for New Zealanders to transact with government digitally that they choose to do so. Services will be easy to understand, the process of accessing a service will be easy to carry out, and it will be easy to get support. We will drive uptake of digital transactions by improving access, provision, awareness and trust and confidence, and in some cases providing other incentives. We will ensure those who can’t transact digitally will not be disadvantaged.

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To understand the customer experience of dealing with government we combined qualitative and quantitative research and used different methods from each field. The quantitative research offers us numerical indications of experience and behaviour, while the qualitative findings offer us the richness of individual personal experience and help us to understand why customer’s experiences, behaviours and preferences are as they are.

Respondents? Participants? Or, customers?

From this point onwards the term "respondents" is used to refer to those customers that took part in the main quantitative telephone survey of 1,500 New Zealand residents; the term "participants" is used to refer to those who took part in qualitative research; "customer" refers to both or customers generally.

All of the graphs in this report have been derived from the main quantitative survey of 1,500 New Zealand residents.


The quantitative study measured the frequency of use of government services, the depth of customers’ known pain points, and attitudes and behaviours towards government services for the purposes of segmenting the customer base. UMR Research was commissioned to undertake the quantitative research. It conducted a telephone survey of 1,500 New Zealand residents aged 18 years or over in September and October 2013. This telephone survey was supplemented by two smaller online surveys: one of New Zealand residents without a landline, and one of New Zealanders living overseas. The findings from these surveys are supplementary to the main findings and, as such, have not been included in the main analysis of this report as the way they were conducted means they are not directly comparable. The full methodology for the quantitative work is available as an annex to this report.


For the qualitative research we undertook workshops and in-depth face-to-face interviews with customers of government services and customer-facing staff from government agencies. In the workshops with customers we took a deliberately broad approach, asking participants to map for us – in words or pictures – their experience of undertaking the life event. This approach was also in keeping with people’s mental model of government: that it is essentially a single entity, the boundaries of which are of little interest to customers until they pose problems.

Life events

The qualitative research took place in September and November 2013, in Auckland, Napier and Christchurch, and was conducted by Result 10 researchers. The four customer groups were approached to participate through a local intermediary, such as a community organisation. The four groups selected were:

  • Tertiary students: often establishing a footprint with government and negotiating services for the first time, or, developing relationships with new agencies when they already have established relationships with others
  • New parents: engagement with multiple agencies to register the birth of their child and potentially seek support
  • Recent immigrants: establishing a relationship with multiple government agencies during the course of a single life event
  • Recently retired: active and changing relationship with multiple government agencies.

In total we spoke with 53 participants across 10 workshops and held two paired interviews.

It should be noted that qualitative research is not intended to be representative. Rather we have sought to offer a rich and detailed snapshot of customers dealing with public services at turning points in their lives. The research is not an evaluation of services, nor a comparison between different providers, rather we wanted to have participants document their experiences and how public services fitted into that. In some instances public services played a large role, in others it was quite small. As government agencies we can learn from all their experiences.

User journey maps and participant privacy 

We have visualised some of the user journey maps created by participants for this report. Words used in these maps are participants’ own and therefore reflect their perceptions of government services. Identifying details have been removed and we have maintained the participants’ anonymity by continuing the use of pseudonyms they chose.

Nb: All research has limitations and this research is no exception. Notes on specific limitations have been set out in the research where appropriate.

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Page last updated: 14/05/2015