Gov't ministries to have customer service improvement plan by April

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

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All ministries must have customer service improvement plans in place by the end of April 2018 as mandated by the Public Sector Transformation and Modernisation Programme.

The aim is to reduce waste, save money and make the public institutions more efficient and effective for those who need them.

The plans are a priority of the Service Excellence Programme (SEP), which falls under the ambit of Thematic Area 1 of the Public Sector Transformation and Modernisation Programme, entitled 'Trade and Investment Facilitation and Service Excellence'.

This is also one of the goals of Vision 2030 Jamaica — National Development Plan, which calls for professionalism and efficient service delivery in all public sector institutions.

Modernisation specialist in the Public Sector Transformation and Modernisation Division (PSTMD), Office of the Cabinet, Michele Gordon-Somers, tells JIS News that the plans are a critical part of the service excellence policy being developed by the Cabinet Office.

“All ministries must conduct customer service assessments, they must speak with their customers, they must have plans developed, and they must report their achievements against their plans,” she emphasises.

The proposed policy will set out the core principles, values, standards, strategies, accountability mechanism, continuous improvement frameworks, and service delivery options that will promote and institutionalise service excellence to facilitate consistency in service quality across government.

Last year the PSTMD engaged technocrats in the ministries, departments and agencies, as well as from civil society and the private sector at Service Excellence Visioning Workshops, aimed at identifying strategies and actions to get to the supreme form of service excellence in the public sector.

Recently the Cabinet Office and the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica signed a Memorandum of Understanding, signalling the commencement of a partnership between the two organisations, to promote service excellence in the public and private sectors and increase awareness of customer service issues nationally.

Gordon-Somers says that some ministries have named customer service improvement teams, and are conducting customer service-readiness assessments, which will guide the development of customer service improvement plans.

“The information that comes out of the assessments will be used to feed into developing customer service improvement plans, and it is expected that the whole area of customer service will be looked at in a comprehensive way, and then these plans will be implemented with short-, medium- and long-term measures incorporated within those plans,” she explains.

Gordon-Somers notes that the PSTMD has been conducting workshops with service improvement teams “to sensitise them about the Service Excellence Programme”.

The modernisation specialist says ministries will develop their plans before focusing on their respective agencies and departments.

“So, all the agencies and departments under their portfolios, they will assist them through the same process, in terms of developing their service-improvement plans and reporting on their achievements against those plans on a quarterly basis,” she tells JIS News.

Gordon-Somers says that in the past, ministries only focused on front-line customers regarding customer-service improvement, adding that other areas should be addressed, such as business processes, engagement of customers, the handling of complaints, customer feedback, and “ensuring that service improvement planning is a critical part of general operational planning”.

Another component of the SEP at ministries is the development of citizens' charters.

According to Gordon-Somers, a citizen's charter is a contract between ministries and their customers, which outlines the strategies to improve customer service at the entities.

“We expect all ministries will have a citizen's charter, or those who already have will update their document,” she says.

Gordon-Somers stresses that charters that are posted on the websites of ministries should also be displayed in the lobby areas and hard copies made available for customers who may request them.

Meanwhile, senior director, Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Sandra Senior Brown, tells JIS News that a citizen's charter/customer service improvement team is in place at the super ministry.

She said the entity is looking at various technological initiatives “to enable our internal customers to be better able to carry out their functions”.

The ministry, which was created in March 2016 and charged with the responsibility for seven critical portfolios — land, environment, climate change, investment, water and wastewater, housing and works — has oversight for 48 agencies.

“We at the ministry see it as a critical need to have this customer service improvement programme implemented based on our mandate of ensuring that we meet the business needs of Jamaica as well as the needs of our internal stakeholders,” she says.

Brown, who is overseeing the implementation of the ministry's modernisation initiatives, says “customers are demanding more and they want better quality and a higher standard of service”.

“We want to ensure that customers are able to access certain services and there is ease in doing so. Our website will be instrumental in that regard,” she tells JIS News.

“We have over 46 agencies, so we definitely want to be one of the front-runners where implementation of this Service Excellence Programme is concerned,” she adds.

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