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Results for Canadians – A Management Framework for the Government of Canada

Results for Canadians presents an agenda to guide Canada's public service managers. A 'Citizen focus' and a commitment to 'Citizen-centred service delivery' are central to this management agenda. To meet this commitment, the Government of Canada plans two major initiatives. The first initiative is Service Canada which will help citizens find government services easily and in both official languages. The goal is to help citizens get the services they are entitled to, in a way that is fast, convenient, seamless and connected. The second initiative is the Service Improvement Initiative, which focuses on the performance of Government of Canada services. The Service Improvement Initiative aims to achieve a significant, quantifiable improvement in client satisfaction with services over the next five years. A related initiative is Government-On-Line, which is a key enabler to improve both access and service performance.

Purpose of this Guide

This guidebook is a fundamental tool in the implementation of the Service Improvement Initiative, for use by program managers responsible for service delivery in federal departments and agencies as well as by individuals especially responsible for departmental and agency service quality initiatives.

Here you will find a detailed and holistic method for planning and implementing service improvement, based on the clients' perspective. It includes step-by-step descriptions of suggested activities, with associated tools in the appendices.

This is a document in progress, and will be further developed and refined as it is used in the lead departments and agencies of the Service Improvement Initiative.

Overview of the Service Improvement Initiative

In the Fall of 1998, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) created the Assistant Deputy Minister Advisory Committee on Service and Innovation (ACSI) to help develop the citizen-centred service strategy for the Government of Canada that would respond to citizen needs and priorities for service improvement. A series of working groups were established to undertake its work, including the Service Improvement Planning and Implementation (SIPI) Subcommittee. Using research into public sector good practices, the Subcommittee developed the SIPI methodology for the continuous improvement of Government of Canada service quality, which this guidebook explains in detail.

The essence of the Service Improvement Initiative is that the continuous and measurable improvement of client satisfaction is the most reliable indicator of improvement in service quality and service performance: it is what quality and continuous improvement should now mean, and how they should be primarily, though not exclusively, measured. Leading-edge service organizations in the public sector, like their private sector counterparts, now use a results-based approach to the continuous improvement of client satisfaction, integrated with the annual business planning cycle.

The policy framework approved by the Treasury Board for the Service Improvement Initiative provides that, when fully implemented, departments and agencies that have significant direct service delivery activities with Canadians shall:

  • adopt a comprehensive continuous improvement planning and implementation approach to service improvement and client satisfaction;
  • establish documented baseline measures of citizen satisfaction for key services to the public, using the metrics of the Common Measurements Tool developed by the award-winning Citizen-Centred Service Network;
  • prepare and implement annual service improvement plans based on clients' priorities for service improvement;
  • establish a minimum 10% improvement target for improved client satisfaction over the five years of the Initiative for each key service to the public;
  • adopt and publish core service standards for each service channel;
  • incorporate results-based service improvement accountability for managers as part of existing performance management systems, commencing with Deputy Ministers;
  • report within the existing annual RPP/DPR planning and reporting process on:

    • service standards for all key public services;
    • performance against service standards;
    • annual improvements in client satisfaction;
    • progress toward five-year satisfaction targets.

The Service Improvement Initiative will be implemented through a phased-in approach. A small number of "mission critical" departments – those whose service performance will have the greatest immediate impact on Canadians – will be identified and will serve as "lead departments" for the initiative, moving at a faster pace and showing the way for others. In Phase One (2000-2001), all departments with key services to the public are asked to identify and report on service standards for key public services and establish client satisfaction baseline measures. In addition to these basic steps, the "lead departments" will also set initial targets for service improvement; develop service improvement plans based on client priorities; take action against these priorities; and report on performance against service standards.

In Phase Two, all departments with key services to the public will begin to implement the steps undertaken by the "lead departments" in the first phase, while the lead departments will begin to report client satisfaction measures against the baseline established in Phase One. In the third phase, both lead and other departments will have reached the same level and will be reporting annually on progress toward the minimum 10% improvement objective over five years.

Citizens First

In 1998, the Canadian Centre for Management Development's Citizen-Centred Service Network, composed of 220 senior service delivery officials from the three orders of government in Canada, produced the Citizens First national survey which documented Canadians' expectations, satisfaction and priorities for service improvement.

The Citizens First national survey reported that citizens rate a range of federal public services at 6.0 out of 10 - about the same as a range of private sector services but slightly behind a range of provincial (6.2 out of 10) and municipal services (6.4 out of 10).

Canadians expect stellar performance from their public service. Indeed, an astounding 95% expect the quality of public service to be as high or higher than that provided by the private sector, according to the 1998 Citizens First survey. That comes despite the public's recognition that public servants have a tougher job to do than the private sector, balancing the public interest with the needs of individual citizens.

To serve Canadians better, governments need to understand Canadians' service needs better. That is the crux of this Service Improvement Initiative – better understanding leading to better service leading to greater satisfaction, while making services easier to find and access.

Findings of the Citizens First research helps in that understanding:

  • Five factors explain over 70% of satisfaction or dissatisfaction in using a government service: timeliness; fairness; courtesy; competence and outcome. These can be considered the five main drivers of citizen satisfaction for most services.
  • When all five factors are done well, ratings of 80% or better are achieved. But when just one driver is inadequate, ratings drop by 20 percentage points. Do poorly on two or more drivers, and the ratings drop into the basement.
  • The most important driver is timeliness: 60% of the time, when citizens are not satisfied, it is because we take too long.
  • One in four times when citizens try to find a service, they have trouble locating the right access point.
  • When Canadians access the right organization, 60% are then disappointed by being shunted to voice mail, passed off to several different people who don't know the answer (and don't promise to find it and call back), or other impediments.
  • Sixteen per cent of requests need more than one organization to solve their request (for example, a federal passport requires a provincial birth certificate).
  • Canadians' priorities for service improvements include improved telephone service, one-stop service, reduced red tape, and more mail and electronic service delivery.
  • The federal government services Canadians most want to see improved are Employment Insurance, Canada Employment Centres, the justice system, Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, Canada Post, and Canada Pension/Old Age Security.

The Five Key Drivers of Service Quality –
Citizens First Survey, 19981

Driver Survey Measure
Timeliness How satisfied were you with the time it took to get the service?
Knowledge, competence Staff were knowledgeable and competent
Courtesy, comfort Staff were courteous and made me feel comfortable
Fair treatment I was treated fairly
Outcome In the end, did you get what you needed?

The Outside-In Approach

Over the past decade, government has been gradually moving from an "inside-out" approach – basing service on what the organization saw as important – to an "outside-in" approach. The Service Improvement Initiative continues and accelerates this transition to an "outside-in" approach. It bases service delivery on citizens' needs and expectations.

Citizens and Clients: A Note on Terminology

The primary focus of this Guide is the improvement of client satisfaction with the delivery of government services. Yet this objective takes its place within a broader commitment of the Government of Canada to "citizen-centred service delivery." It may be helpful to say something briefly here about the relationship between these two terms, citizen and client.2 By "clients", we mean the direct users or recipients of government services. But the clients of government services are not "just" clients, as they would be in the private sector. They are usually also taxpayers and citizens, bearers of rights and duties in a framework of democratic community. While clients of the Government of Canada are usually citizens of Canada, they may also be potential citizens of Canada, or citizens of another country, with a business, professional or personal interest in Canada.

Government service delivery should be "citizen-centred" for at least three reasons. First, it should be conceived and executed from the "outside-in" – not "inside-out" – with the needs, perspectives and satisfaction of citizens foremost in mind. Second, many of the clients of government are "involuntary clients," whose service relationship with government derives from their obligations as citizens, or from the rights of other citizens. Third, those who deliver government services should always bear in mind that the quality of government service delivery can and should contribute to strengthen democratic citizenship, and the bonds of confidence and trust between citizens, and between citizens and their democratic governments.

Those who deliver government services may have to balance the distinct interests and needs of different groups or categories of clients and citizens, within the broader framework of the public interest. They may also have to balance the interests of immediate clients with those of the citizens of Canada as a whole. For this reason, this Guide will sometimes refer to "client satisfaction," and sometimes to "client and citizen satisfaction." This may help to remind the reader both that the satisfaction of immediate clients needs to go hand-in-hand with the confidence of all citizens in the institutions of government and that clients are also citizens themselves, whose pride and belief in citizenship can be strengthened or weakened by the service experience. That is both the challenge and the glory of service delivery in the public sector.