18th Mar 2016
In the context of economic pressures and rising demand, many organisations in the public sector face painful choices about how to maintain a high quality of service, as well as plan for the future. According to the Institute of Customer Service’s latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index, customers are more satisfied with both local and national public services now than they were a year ago. However, as both sectors still fall towards the bottom of the index, there is still room for improvement.
Based on the responses of 6,000 customers and 24 in-depth interviews with public sector leaders, the institute’s Citizens and customers: further building the case for customer service in the public sector report outlines the key challenges in delivering consistently excellent service, and considers ways to combat them. Here are six recommendations from the study.
Public sectors can only deliver world-class service if the governments that manage them are committed to making improvements. However, executives with a clear vision that employees and citizens can relate to, and the tenacity to deliver it, will help organisations put customers first.
The public has a right to access certain services; some are paid for, others are available depending on the resources available to the providing organisation. However, in all cases, the quality of service relies on a customer-centric commitment by the organisation delivering them. A focus on customer insight, co-creation, employee engagement and recruitment will allow organisations to put the customer at the heart of all decisions.
To deliver top-quality service, organisations need to equip their staff with a certain set of skills. Invest in emotional intelligence training for employees dealing with customers, and develop the coaching and people-management skills of team leaders and line managers.
Technology allows organisations to link services together, creating a simpler experience for customers and more rapid access to information. However, organisations need to ensure they have customers’ trust if they are to mitigate concerns over the security and governance of data.
A key theme that emerges from research by the Institute of Customer Service is the challenge of providing for citizens, who may require support from a number of agencies, with a coherent, seamless customer experience rather than a disjointed set of interactions. Excellent customer service in the public sector requires collaboration across inter-connecting agencies, departments and partnerships.
Clear information about performance and benchmarking will provide customers, executives and politicians with the information they need to stimulate change and drive improvements, so transparency is a must for public service organisations.