January 31, 2024 — It's an election year. To be certain, the airwaves will be filled with political ads, debates, and conversation crisscrossing a myriad of issues this year. But through this anticipated noise, our Public Sector Industry Insights team will keep our focus on the most coveted signal in all of governmental affairs — public trust.
The signals of trust are often hard to find. There are renowned polling firms and think tanks that expend significant resources and far-ranging survey work on the concept of trust and its component parts. We aggregated leading polling data that demonstrates just how far public trust in the institutions of government has fallen when compared to historical norms dating back to the early 1970s. In truth, Gallup's polling numbers show some startling results, particularly at the federal level.1
Usually considered one of the most trusted branches of government, today's constituents trust the federal judicial branch far less than the historical average. In fact, Gallup found the public's view of judicial trustworthiness to be a 49% confidence rating, a full 17 percentage points below the judiciary's more consistent rating of 66% since 1972. Across the Capitol Complex, the unit of government receiving the absolute lowest level of public trust in Gallup's most recent survey was the federal legislative branch, with a confidence rating of 32%.
While the federal government appears to be mired in a crisis of trust, Gallup's data did show that one segment of government is actively, and effectively, rebuilding public trust. According to Gallup's poll, Americans have the most faith in our units of state and local government, together measuring a confidence score of more than 67%. Viewed through this lens, this polling data leads to a second, and perhaps more important, positive conclusion — trust can be rebuilt.
Our 2024 Industry Insights series for the Public Sector will focus on the ways state and local governments are rebuilding trust. And in particular, we'll take a deeper dive into the public-private partnerships that are helping to rebuild public trust, one claim at a time.
To begin, let's analyze the factors that comprise trust itself. To help us, famed author and public speaker Stephen M. R. Covey has articulated an effective equation to represent the components of trust.2 In its elemental form, Covey maintains that:
Trust = Character + Competency + Consistency
This equation will help guide our overall publication series as we address each component part in turn. In this edition, we concentrate on two specific character markers — integrity and intent — that state and local governments are leveraging to build trust.
Leading With Integrity
The first marker, integrity, is the congruence of authenticity and honesty. Leaders who exhibit this congruence regularly say what they mean and mean what they say. In public administration, the path to integrity is paved with transparency. Or, as Covey says, "Tell the truth in a way people can verify."
In support of this proposition, researchers at CivicPlus found that state and local governments can boost the public's trust in their operations by offering government services in a digital format and providing administrative transparency.3 The survey results showed that constituents who engaged digitally with their governments more than once a month were almost five times more trusting of their city's government than those who engaged fewer times or not at all.
More than 82% of residents surveyed said it was important for their local government to provide transparency and access to their administrative decisions. As the lead researcher put it, "If you just lift the veil, folks can see how the government's working. And then if you give them the power to actually be involved with that in a positive way, it ultimately impacts their satisfaction [with] and trust [in] the municipality."
In terms of public claims administration, the effective use of a risk management information system (RMIS) creates transparency and builds trust. At the outset, the RMIS ensures that all parties have access to the same information, reducing the chances of miscommunication or misunderstandings. Additionally, the validity of any risk management conclusion depends on the integrity of the underlying data source. The best risk management information systems integrate data from various sources, such as claims, safety, and compliance, into a single platform, which eliminates silos and provides a clear view of risk management activities.
Finally, public risk management needs its RMIS platform to provide robust analytics and performance metrics, which allows stakeholders to track key risk management indicators and measure the effectiveness of risk mitigation strategies. Only through this kind of transparency in performance measurement can public risk managers help rebuild trust by demonstrating accountability and providing evidence-based insights for their decisions.
Leading With Intent
The second fundamental marker of character in the trust equation is intent. State and local leaders who inspire the greatest trust are intentional about delivering genuine, mutually beneficial service. To this end, the General Services Administration (GSA) of the federal government has initiated a state and local government pilot project to leverage customized text reminders that deliver digital information to individuals at critical moments during the enrollment and renewal of federal benefit programs.4 These alerts include upcoming application deadlines, opportune times to seek benefit changes, and updates of impending changes to service. The GSA Public Benefits Studio, which is running the pilot, said this texting pilot is not about "shipping a few products," but adds, "This is systems change work. It's rethinking forms, guidance to states, [and] how whole processes and programs are designed and implemented."
We see an absolute parallel to the uptake of mobile technology in public casualty claims administration. Leading public risk management teams know that expedient, authentic, and mutually beneficial communication through mobile apps helps build trust among the various stakeholders to a claim. Let's take a look at the intentional features that support effective digital communications.
As a threshold consideration, the public's access to a mobile application must be secure and convenient. Second, intentional communication must be timely and relevant. For the app to further this marker, it must offer real-time updates and notifications to stakeholders that keep them informed about important events such as claim status changes, payment status, accurate scheduling, or safety alerts. What's more, only two-way communication can foster the kind of open communication and responsiveness necessary to demonstrate intent. To be effective, the app must facilitate two-way functionality between stakeholders and their claims adjusters, risk managers, or other relevant parties.
Mobile accessibility and responsiveness demonstrated through a two-way mobile app can build trust by demonstrating a commitment to addressing stakeholders' concerns and needs. For example, leading mobile applications in public claims programs enable stakeholders to report incidents directly through the application, streamlining the process and ensuring that incidents are promptly recorded.
Throughout 2024, we will be exploring the innovative ways the public sector leverages partnerships in claims administration to rebuild public trust. In this edition, we looked at integrity and intent, two key character markers that signal trust. We demonstrated how the virtues of transparency in RMIS platforms and the intentional, mutually beneficial flow of information through mobile applications can build trust between stakeholders and a claims team. We look forward to connecting with you on these topics and more. Thank you for your support, readership, and valuable feedback on our Industry Insights series. We love hearing from you.
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1Jones, Jeffrey M. "Americans Trust Local Government Most, Congress Least," Gallup, 13 Oct 2023.
2"Leading at the Speed of Trust®," FranklinCovey, accessed 29 Jan 2024. Course promotional page.
3Quilan, Keely. "Digital Services Key to Boosting Trust in Local Government, Report Finds." STATESCOOP, 12 Sep 2023.
4Alms, Natalie. "GSA launches Text Message Service for Government Programs in Four Localities and States," NEXTGOV/FCW, 15 Dec 2023.
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