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Towards Improving Service Standards in Public Services

February 17 2020 - by Dr. Lois Parkes, Leadership and Institutional Strengthening Specialist, CARICAD

In its recently published Inter-American Development Bank research paper – Wait No More – Citizens, Red Tape and Digital Government (Caribbean Edition)[i] – the challenge of slow government bureaucracies in the Caribbean, and the negative impact on public trust, productivity and national and regional competitiveness were highlighted.

The question is how can public sector leaders begin to tackle these challenges, especially in the context of fiscal constraints and slow pace of digitization of public services. There are however several critical steps that public sector leaders can take towards improving service delivery, before considering digitization. In fact, it is highly recommended that these steps represent critical precursors to any digitization process.

  1. First step is to have the mindset shift to client-centricity. This means getting very explicit and focused on the fact that the Ministry, Department, or team has clients, and exist primarily to serve those clients.
  2. Get very clear about defining all of the services that are provided. In doing so, collect data on volume of clients, kinds of clients, and how are they served (for example – do clients visit your offices to access service?)
  3. Examine the business processes related to each service, especially the high volume ones, with a view to making these as efficient as possible. In its most simple form, a business process review involves walking through each step, from the moment the client has their first interaction with your organisation, and looking at each step that the client’s request goes through, to whom the request goes, what decisions are taken at each step, what information is required at each step, and how length of time taken at each step. Examine redundancies, unnecessary time lags, and steps that add no real value to the delivery of the service to the client, all with a view to creating efficiencies, while maintaining effectiveness, and adequate quality controls.
  4. After this, create service standards for your main services, and be bold enough to publish these standards. Be prepared to hold yourself and the organisation accountable for meeting these standards.
  5. Ensure that you have a monitoring system for recording and tracking requests for services from clients. Coupled with this, there should be a system of providing updates to clients on progress on requests for service, particularly if service standards will not be met, for whatever reason.
  6. Build service standards into the organisation’s results-based management systems as well as the performance management system. This ensures that there is accountability for adhering to service standards at the organizational, team and individual levels
  7. Look for opportunities to continuously improve on the service standards, including digitization of service delivery.

If you have had any success in implementing improvements in service standards and delivery, please share with us!