Customers are demanding more from government and this has forced us to strengthen the on-going customer service programme and to be more innovative and strategic in our approach The public sector is the country’s largest service provider, and any improvement in service quality will have a positive impact on our millions of citizens, residents, members of the diaspora and our investors. Perspectives are changing, from the traditional notion of the public sector as an instrument for administering social policy and legislation, to one in which the public sector is a provider of services for which our citizens and investors pay taxes.
A Customer Service Policy is being developed to provide institutional basis for enhancing service delivery. The Policy is intended to bring together, into a cohesive whole, all the elements of the multi-faceted customer service improvement programmes that have been ongoing over the years.
As part of the Public-Sector Transformation and Modernisation Division (PSTMD), the Office of the Cabinet (OoC) is developing a framework for institutionalising service excellence, thereby initiating the change in culture required for real and lasting improvements in the quality of service delivered across the Public Sector. The development of a Public-Sector Customer Service Policy has been identified as an element of this framework, necessary to institutionalise service excellence across the Government of Jamaica (GoJ). The proposed policy will set out the core principles, values, standards, strategies, accountability mechanism, continuous improvement frameworks, capacity building requirements and service delivery options that will promote and institutionalise service excellence to facilitate consistency in service quality across government and the delivery of world class public services.
The public sector is challenged to consistently improve its quality of service delivery in keeping with be rising expectations from citizens for increased transparency, accessibility, accountability and responsiveness in government operations. With increased use of technology and the emergence of the knowledge economy, the public have expectations of a broader, more diversified range of public services that can respond to evolving individual and community needs. It is also imperative that the public sector makes ‘doing business with government’ easier, for the country to become globally competitive and attract vital investment.
To provide a baseline for future evaluation of the Policy, as well as to establish clearly the specific issues to be addressed, the OoC, in October 2014, conducted an assessment of the status of customer service across the public sector. Some of the issues identified from the Assessment include:
- inadequacy of information, resulting in customers having to make multiple visits to conduct business;
- lack of a formalised queuing system using number;
- wait time indicators are lacking;
- lack of integration of business processes in order to deliver services in a more seamless and cost-effective manner;
- too much paper being used across all the agencies;
- inconsistency in the application of procedures, causing frustration among customers;
- discourteous and unhelpful front-line officers; and
- inadequate attention to changing the culture of the public sector in a deliberate and sustained manner and incorporating customer service and service delivery considerations into the policy process.
In the light of these realities, and in the context of limited resources, the manner in which services are planned and delivered need to be significantly changed. There is therefore the need for a policy framework to guide concrete, consistent and sustained efforts for delivering quality public services efficiently, effectively and economically.
In keeping with the recommendations from the Assessment, the OoC is committed to finalising a GoJ Service Excellence Framework.
Specifically, the framework will elaborate a clear vision for public sector service excellence, define the culture that must exist within the public service to support the achievement of a ‘citizen-centric’ public sector and establish the principles, values and standards which will reinforce the culture and ensure that all citizens, including the vulnerable and socially excluded, are able to access quality service;
The framework will be designed around four (4) pillars:
1. Public Engagement - citizen involvement in service design and monitoring
- designing a government-wide mechanism to manage feedback on service delivery and sustain citizen engagement in service design and performance monitoring.
2. Governance and Performance Management – accountability for service excellence
- mechanisms for ensuring accountability for the quality of services delivered, which reinforce the role and responsibility of each Ministry in managing the quality of service offered across its portfolio, empower frontline staff to provide quick resolution to customer issues, and provide disincentives to delivering subpar services.
3. Reward and Recognition – promoting a culture of service excellence
- defining service excellence and providing a comprehensive and transparent scheme for reward and recognition.
4. Institutional Framework & Capacity Building – creating capacities for embedding service excellence
- the functions and related skills, knowledge and attitudes that must be developed and/or introduced to successfully implement the proposed strategies and transform every public servant into a provider of quality customer service.
The Cabinet Office also promotes the formulation of Citizen’s Charters to ensure a more informed public and increased accountability by public sector entities.To date over 130 government entities have implemented basic customer service measures and minimum standards for service delivery.
Under the ongoing programme a service delivery spectrum was developed that categorises public sector entities from 1 to Level 4 based on adherence to specific service improvement standards.
A Customer Service Monitoring and Evaluation System CSMES which is a standardized system for monitoring customer service performance will be institutionalized as part of the Public Sector Customer Service Policy. The Customer Service Monitoring and Evaluation Framework has been developed and implemented in eight Public Sector entities. The Framework requires entities to establish mechanisms for customer service measurement and monitoring and report on these quarterly through a Customer Service Scorecard. Each entity is then audited annually.
The Public Sector Customer Service Competition, held biennially since 2001, is designed to publicly recognise and reward entities for outstanding customer service performance. The Public Sector Customer Service Competition was implemented in acknowledgement of reward and recognition as important elements in promoting and encouraging sustainability of service improvements efforts across the public sector. The seventh competition ended in 2015.
The Office also coordinates the sharing of Best Practices through the Customer Service Network, in order to assist entities to maintain a priority focus on the quality of their service delivery .
- (_/_/_) Public sector, private sector and civil society stakeholder is being engaged in the improvement of customer service across the public sector through involvement in consultations on the Service Excellence Framework, as well as partnerships to build the service delivery capacity of the public sector.
Work will continue with ministries which participated in the Assessment to formalise their service improvement plans, and as a matter of priority, address the service issues raised in the Assessment.