Service business

Putting customers at the center of public service

Columnists

Putting customers at the center of public service


A customer service agent. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Private sector colleagues know the value of customers because of the impact they have on their bottom line.
  • If customers are not treated well, they will stop frequenting your establishment and using your services.
  • Therefore, customer service is essential for businesses.

Last week was customer service week. The week is an opportunity to reflect on the quality of the services we provide to our customers.

Private sector colleagues know the value of customers because of the impact they have on their bottom line.

If customers are not treated well, they will stop frequenting your establishment and using your services. Therefore, customer service is essential for businesses.

The question, however, is what customers mean beyond just profit. This question is particularly crucial for the civil service and the voluntary sector. Far too often, these groups operate without concern for their customers.

Several years ago, the public service introduced the service charter as a concept to better focus on service delivery to clients and thereby ensure that they are at the center of decision-making and implementation. implemented.

It is important to question the extent to which utility organizations have changed their processes, attitudes and performance to respond to customers.

A starting point should be an objective determination of who the customer is. This is not always obvious to everyone in an organization.

A public body can cooperate as if the employees were the customers. The reality is that the clients are the members of the public who use the services provided by the institution.

For the courts, it is the lawyers and the litigants who come to justice. For schools, it is the students and their parents.

The question may not be very easy for the legislative arm of government. However, customers cannot be members. It must be their electorate and all citizens. This clarity helps to ensure that the processes and systems put in place meet the needs of intended beneficiaries and not substitutes.

Second, the recognition that public service is a constitutional right, not a favor. While for the private sector the customer can move on to the next company if they are not satisfied, for the public service this option is not always open to customers.

Public institutions are funded by taxpayers’ money and, in some cases, are the only existing entities to provide the online service in question.

It is therefore incumbent on those working in the public service to keep this in mind when serving clients. The relationship is one of trust and responsibility.

The quality of our development depends on the health of our institutions and the services they provide. This is based on many elements, including budgetary allocations, the prudent use of resources available to institutions and the quality of leadership.

Too often we forget to think about the relationship between these institutions and their clients. The majority of public sector institutions do not undertake customer satisfaction surveys.

This requires changes so that those seeking services can give honest feedback about their experiences and suggestions on how to improve the relationship.

Whenever an institution develops systems and rules, it must do so from the perspective of those it seeks to serve, not just those who work there.

A customer service-oriented approach will reflect on the conditions required to provide quality and timely services to customers.

He will ensure that inputs such as motivated and highly paid staff, conducive work environment and adequate infrastructure are in place to enable service delivery to clients.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that service is not about infrastructure. It is not the quality of buildings and offices that matters.

It is the responsiveness of our institutions, the extent to which they are prepared to do everything possible to ensure that their essential functions are not disrupted even during challenges such as a pandemic. It requires agility, commitment and consistency.

Customer Service Week should remind all public servants that customer service is what makes the difference in our institutions.