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ARCHIVED - Service Improvement Initiative - How to Guide

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Where Are We Now?

Step 1
Internal Assessment

It is surprising how little we know about our clients and how much we assume. Fifty years ago, most Canadians lived in small enough communities that many public servants knew their clients by name and were familiar with their family, habits and preferences. We have lost that intimacy.

The public service is not alone in that. A book on private sector client satisfaction describes the case of a bank that put stiff penalty fees on an inactive account which happened to belong to a 10-year-old girl. The girl became upset and closed her account, as did her father and aunt, two of the bank's largest depositors. The bank didn't know (or didn't care) that young children don't want service fees on their accounts. The bank didn't know about the family connection, and didn't know – but did eventually care – that by offending one customer they offended the whole family.

In the public sector a bad service experience can diminish pride in citizenship or a citizen's confidence and trust in the capacity of government. For this reason government service delivery should be citizen-centred. In the private sector, client needs, priorities, and expectations are identified by a variety of factors, from purchase trends to customer surveys and feedback to new product and service line development. Obviously, government can apply some of the same tools to understand citizen needs, priorities and service perceptions.

Clients and Client Groups

The first step in improving client satisfaction is to identify the clients of the organization, and the key public services to which the SIPI methodology should be applied.

This will answer the following questions:

  • What is our business?
  • What products and services do we provide?
  • Who are our internal clients?
  • Who are our external clients?
  • Who are our partners?

Clients are not homogeneous. It is important to understand the patterns and diversity so that you can supply each client with the service they require. That will allow you to avoid being "captured" by the needs of one vocal or visible group and the notion that by answering their demands you are satisfying all clients.

In identifying clients and client groups, one eye-opening method that is used in both the private and public sector by innovative managers and employees is to "staple" yourself to a purchase order or similar request for various services and to follow it through your system. That will allow you – for each product and service – to see who is involved in the process: external and internal clients, partners and various stakeholders.

Identifying Clients

Here are some other suggestions for identifying clients:

  • Determine what information your organization already has about your clients.
  • Confirm this information is thorough using multiple sources. Have the Service Improvement Team go through all of your processes, products, and services to see who is touched by what you do. Contact other sections of your organization (communications, planning and public consultation people), or similar sections in other government organizations. Talk to stakeholders and search out other information sources.
  • Take the list to front-line staff. Ask them who has been missed.
  • If you have any multiple-contact services that involve other departments, such as between passport and citizenship offices, discuss joint clients together.
  • List the information you still need and identify sources for this information.
  • Set a timetable for the regular re-evaluation of your client identification information.

Identifying Products and Services

It sounds, at first, odd to ask managers to review and list their products and services. But services can be less tangible than clients. An initial list may identify services that are not provided and, in some locations, services are provided that are not listed.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What is the role of your work unit? If necessary, define what you do and do not do.
  • Do the products and services correspond to your mandate?
  • Does the current range of services fully cover your mandate?

Identifying Partners and Stakeholders

In a similar way, review and list your stakeholders and partners. Both of these groups are good sources of information on your clients and services, and can contribute to the quality of the service provided. This is especially true of partners who are involved in actual service delivery.


This assessment step is essential as a basis for your citizen-centred service improvement initiative. But it is also important not to get bogged down in endless research. The above steps should allow the improvement team to identify the products and services and the clients that use them in a simple matrix.4 On the side, the products and services the organization provides are listed. Across the top, the clients, partners and stakeholders are identified, which include both internal and external clients of government. For each product or service, the clients can be identified with a check, or for a more in-depth analysis, with a 'P' for a primary client (direct users of the product or service) or 'S' for a secondary client (end users of the output or even indirect stakeholders).

Checklist for Step 1

At the end of this step, you will likely have:

  • Identified the key public services to be included in the Service Improvement Initiative and to which the service improvement planning methodology will apply.
  • A description of key internal and external clients of these products and services.
  • A description of your partners and stakeholders, and how they are involved.
  • Make sure these descriptions fit with the legislation and mandate, if applicable, and the prescribed objectives of the program or service.
  • Analysis and documentation of client and stakeholders that includes an understanding of any conflicting roles between citizens' expectations and clients' desired levels of service.

See Assessment Tool