Best Paper Award EGPA Conference 2016

Sabine Rys from the University of Antwerp has won the award of ‘Best Paper’ at the EGPA conference 2016 in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Title of the paper: Citizen or Customer?

The impact of frontline communication of public services on attitudes of citizenship.

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Sabine Rys (

University of Antwerp (Sint-Jacobsstraat 2, 2000 Antwerp) - Political Science - Research group: Public Administration & Management

Citizen or Customer?

The impact of frontline communication of public services on attitudes of citizenship.

Public services communicate continuously with citizens. A tax letter, a scholarship grant, or an application for social benefits are just some examples of the tens of thousands of daily frontline encounters between public services and citizens. The reform doctrine of New Public Management (NPM) of the last decades propagates an entrepreneurial, customer-oriented instead of a bureaucratic, citizen-oriented public sector. NPM hence also suggests addressing people in frontline communication as customers rather than citizens. Arguably, this shift in frontline communication also shapes the attitudes of citizens towards public services. I hence analyse what happens to attitudes of people towards concrete public services as well as the government in general when they are addressed as either customers or citizens. While government communication increasingly assimilates the customer perspective, it may well be that something is lost when abandoning a citizen-orientation. A citizen is a member of a community with rights and responsibilities, while a customer mainly assesses value for money. A shift of focus in frontline communication may hence have profound consequences. To examine this, I focus on the experimental design. After an overview of the current experimental landscape in PA, I conduct an experiment myself in which I manipulate letters of public services to create a citizen and customer approach. With a survey, I measure the differences in attitude and intentional behaviour towards concrete public services and the government in general when addressed either as citizen or customer.