Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
Symbol of the Government of Canada

ARCHIVED - Frequently Asked Questions - Service Improvement Initiative

Warning This page has been archived.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived on the Web is for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It has not been altered or updated after the date of archiving. Web pages that are archived on the Web are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats on the "Contact Us" page.


Rationale and Context of the Service Improvement Initiative

Top of Page

1. What is the main objective of the Service Improvement Initiative?

The objective of the Service Improvement Initiative is to improve the quality of public sector service delivery. It requires that departments and agencies establish objectives for improving client satisfaction with key services provided to the public. The minimum objective is a 10% increase in the level of satisfaction by 2005 against the baseline findings of the 1998 Citizens First survey.

2. On what basis was the minimum 10% increase in level of satisfaction chosen?

In 1998, Canadians rated Government of Canada services at an average of 6 out of 10. This is slightly less than their ratings for provincial and municipal services. While the results from the latest in a series of studies on how citizens perceive the services they receive from government (Citizens First 3), show the service reputation of government has increased, there is still considerable room for improvement.

When public organizations meet citizens' expectations for timeliness, courtesy, competence, fairness and outcome, they can achieve scores of 8 out of 10 or higher. Problems with access, telephones and timeliness are the sources of greatest frustration for citizens.

The minimum 10% objective was judged to be a goal that was ambitious yet realistic and achievable. When achieved, it would bring the Government of Canada to satisfaction levels comparable to, or slightly exceeding, those currently enjoyed by other levels of governments in Canada.

3. What was the consultation process leading up to this initiative?

In the fall of 1998, the TBS created the ADM Advisory Committee on Service and Innovation, which has played a key role in developing a citizen-centred service strategy for the government of Canada. This strategy has two pillars: i) responding to the needs of citizens for improved access and ii) improved quality of government services. Various working groups have carried out this task, including a sub-committee on service improvement planning and implementation.

The objective of this interdepartmental sub-committee is to help ministers, departments and agencies improve in a significant, measurable and durable manner the degree of satisfaction of Canadians with the quality of services provided by the government of Canada. Its mandate is to determine effective service improvement practices, recommend methods and guidelines applicable throughout the government in order to improve citizen satisfaction, and cooperate with departments and agencies in the implementation of recommended guidelines and approaches.

Based on research conducted into best practices in the public sector, the sub-committee has developed a service improvement planning and implementation approach in the context of continuous improvement of service quality in the government of Canada.

4. By which entities was the initiative approved?

The Service Improvement Initiative was developed and recommended by the ADM Advisory Committee on Service and Innovation (ACSI). It was reviewed and endorsed by the Deputy Minister-level Treasury Board Secretariat Advisory Committee (TBSAC). Treasury Board Ministers approved the policy framework for the initiative for implementation.

5. How will this initiative affect existing activities and mechanisms to ensure service improvement within departments and agencies such as ISO, NQI, Process Management and TQM?

The Service Improvement initiative is part of the continuous improvement process that supports all of these efforts. Current practices may need to be reviewed to ensure that they enable their users to implement improvement plans that are based on citizens' priorities for improvement and measure improvement in client satisfaction. Current practices should facilitate implementation of the Service Improvement initiative and assist in the integration of this holistic approach to service improvement into existing departmental and agency activities.

6. How does the SII apply in the context of regulatory services and functions?

Even those services and functions that involve the enforcement of laws or regulations generally include a relationship or interaction with a user or recipient (sometimes an involuntary recipient) of their services. It is this service experience that is the subject of the Service Improvement Initiative.

The Citizens First reports have demonstrated that when a public organization meets citizen's expectations about timeliness, courtesy, competence, fair treatment and outcome, it may score an 8 out of 10, if not more. These service dimensions occur in most regulatory services and functions.

7. Why promote benchmarking within the Public Service?

Benchmarking is a powerful instrument used in identifying exemplary organizations that display particularly good performance through their practices. Benchmarking permits an organization or service to compare results with those in similar organizations or services and to identify those that follow practices that could be used as models for improvement.

8. What do you mean by "citizen-centred" and what is its significance in the context of Service Improvement?

The expression "citizen-centred" means that the raison d'tre of the federal government is to serve Canadians as they are central to all of its programs and services. It is important, therefore, that improvements to services should be based on knowledge of the service needs and expectations of clients and be focused on responding to the priorities for improvement that they have expressed.

At the same time, the quality of service delivery and the value of the service experience in the public sector should be such as to enhance pride in citizenship and strengthen the relationship between citizens and the democratic process and government.

Departments and Agencies affected

Top of Page

9. To which departments and agencies does the Service Improvement Initiative (SII) apply?

See Target Departments and Agencies.

10. Which are the leading Departments and Agencies following  the Service Improvement Initiative?

A panel of  leading departments and agencies includes:

  • Canada Customs and Revenue Agency
  • Canada Post
  • Health Canada
  • Human Resources Development Canada
  • Veterans Affairs Canada

11. Could a department or agency be exempt from participating in the Service Improvement Initiative?

No. All departments and agencies listed in Schedules I and II of the Financial Administration Act that have significant direct service delivery activities with Canadians are part of the Service Improvement initiative and expected to comply.

12. What is the rationale behind implementing the SII in organizations concerned with safeguarding citizens' rights and protecting the larger public good rather than delivering services to clients and users? (Correctional services, customs services, inspection services, etc.)

Some of the most significant successes in the application of service quality and service improvement approaches in the public sector have been in the regulatory and compliance areas, including such areas as policing and revenue collection.

Research indicates that improving the quality of service delivery in regulatory, enforcement or compliance based organizations can also improve the quality and effectiveness of regulatory and enforcement activities. For example, these approaches contribute to enhancing ways to increase citizen trust and compliance in government.

Whatever the final result or impact of a transaction between the federal government and a citizen may be, the latter is entitled to fair, equitable and reasonable treatment and access to services that meet the best level of quality. This is the objective of the Service Improvement Initiative.

Expectations of Departments and Agencies

Top of Page

13. Is the Common Measurements Tool required in the design of tools for measuring client satisfaction with service quality?

Within the CMT Question Bank, there is a series of "Core Questions" that are recommended to all public-sector organizations. They specifically address the "Drivers of Satisfaction" – those elements or attributes of the service experience which, when present, ensure high levels of satisfaction (as identified in Citizens First). Core questions have been identified for each service delivery channel (in-person, telephone, web) in recognition of the fact that the drivers of satisfaction are not identical across service channels.

For purposes of reporting through the DPR process, SII organizations are required to report their results for a subset of 4 specific Core Questions that address timeliness, access, outcome and overall satisfaction. These four questions were selected, in part, based on the results of Citizens First 3, which suggested the Canadian public sector continues to struggle in delivering timely service and in making it easy to access services. The structure of the questionnaire, the working of CMT questions, and the 5-point measurement scales, will have to be used in order to ensure consistency as well as comparability of results among organizations over time.

Note: Departments will be able to add questions and extend the scope of their instruments according to their requirements.

14. Are there certain aspects of service that all departments and agencies will be required to measure?

SII organizations are required to report their results for a subset of 4 specific Core Questions that address timeliness, access, outcome and overall satisfaction. These four questions were selected, in part, based on the results of Citizens First 3, which suggested that the Canadian public sector continues to struggle in delivering timely service and in making it easy to access services.

15. Are departments and agencies, including their management, accountable for achieving the targets established? 

PCO guidance to DMs (July 2003), and the introduction of the Treasury Board Management Accountability Framework, directed departments and agencies to focus on citizen-centred delivery.

Under the Service Improvement Initiative, accountability agreements with deputy ministers are to be reviewed with the Privy Council Office in order to insert a provision on managerial accountability in terms of improving services provided to clients of federal departments and agencies.

As well, departments and agencies will be accountable for the achievement of service improvement targets for those services that have been defined in their planning processes.

16. Should client satisfaction improvement targets be communicated to the public?

Each department or agency should communicate both its service standards and its annual targets for improving satisfaction with services in its Report on Plans and Priorities (RPP) or in a document referenced in the RPP.

17. How is the Service Improvement Initiative to be reflected in Departmental and Agency Reports on Plans and Priorities and in Departmental Performance Reports?

Each department and agency should ensure that its Service Improvement Plan is reflected in its Report on Plans and Priorities (RPP) including its service improvement priorities, service standards, and annual objectives for improving client satisfaction. It should demonstrate that these priorities and targets specifically respond to the priorities expressed by their clients.

The results attained by Service Improvement will be reflected in Departmental Performance Reports (DPRs). Progress with implementation, performance against established service standards, and progress toward improved client satisfaction targets should be presented in Departmental DPRs.

Getting Help: Tools and Resources

Top of Page

18. What methods and tools will be provided to departments and agencies in the context of this initiative?

The "How-to Guide to the Service Improvement Initiative" is a step-by-step guide to develop and implement service improvements. It also proposes a series of tools and practical examples for achieving each of the steps. This guide was developed as a result of a study of good practices in the public sector and consultations within all levels of government.

The Common Measurements Tool (CMT) for measuring service quality is the primary tool that will be used to develop instruments for the collection of client impressions about service quality. It proposes a structure, questions and steps that are easy to use and that will enable the assembly of high quality measurement instruments with a minimum of resources.

By having a standard for measurement such as the CMT, public organizations with similar business lines will be able to compare results and benchmark with each other. For the first time, managers and decision-makers will be able to compare the success of program delivery mechanisms.

The CMT, as well as related support material, is available from the Institute for Citizen-Centered Service (ICCS).  The ICCS site also contains examples of good practices for various aspects of service improvement and service quality. It is updated regularly.

As well, the GOL Supply Arrangement and Public Opinion Research Standing Offer are useful sources. See Toolbox for links to these and other resources.

19. What support will theTreasury Board Secretariat provide?

Departments and agencies undertaking a service improvement initiative should always begin by reviewing the "How-to Guide to the Service Improvement Initiative." After using the guide to get started, they can take advantage of several supports that Treasury Board's Service Delivery Improvement Directorate has put in place. A vendor of Record list is available to help departments and agencies hire the expertise required to undertake client satisfaction services using the CMT. In addition, they can use the Government Online database to find management consultants qualified to help turn survey results into actionable service improvement plans.

For support specific to the use of the Common Measurements Tool, contact the Institute for Citizen-Centred Service (ICCS). The ICCS serves as the custodian of the CMT and its staff are familiar with the SII. The ICCS also maintains an anonymous Benchmarking Database that will facilitate the ability of departments and agencies to compare their results against peer organizations and identify good practices.

Getting Help: Training

Top of Page

20. Does the TBS intend to provide training and information sessions on the SII to departmental and agency managers and staff?

The TBS Service Delivery Improvement team will make learning events and training available on a periodic basis. TBS has partnered with Statistics Canada to offer managers a 3-day introductory course to help them plan and implement client satisfaction surveys using the CMT. TBS is also collaborating with organizations, such as the Institute for Citizen-Centered Service, to make other learning events available and build a community of practice.

Getting Help: Financial Assistance

Top of Page

21. Is there any financial assistance available to departments and agencies for implementing and carrying out the Service Improvement Initiative?

There is no financial assistance provided to departments and agencies under this initiative. Since service improvement is a recurring and on-going activity in federal organizations, the financial requirements of organizations should be funded through the normal budgetary planning process.

Getting Help: Advice

Top of Page

22. How should departments and agencies prioritize the services, programs and activities that are covered in the short and medium terms by the Service Improvement initiative?

Departments and agencies should give highest priority to programs and activity sectors that involve the most significant direct service delivery activity with Canadians. In particular, attention should focus on service or program delivery activities which, for reasons of critical mass, high visibility or importance to specific groups of Canadians, will make the greatest impact on Canadians' perception of the quality of Government of Canada service and their level of satisfaction with Government of Canada service delivery.

23. How important is staff involvement in the context of this initiative?

Staff commitment to service improvement is a key factor in the success of this initiative. Departments and agencies are strongly encouraged to involve staff in the various developmental and implementation phases of service improvement planning.

24. Where can I find out about available tools, implementation schedules, and information and training activities?

This site is designed to serve as your best source for information, tools and reference material, research, links to key documents, best practices and other information on the Service Improvement Initiative. See Tool Box, How-to Guide and Research. If you need more information, please contact us.

25. Can meetings be arranged with Service Improvement implementation team representatives to discuss the approach to be used in a department or agency and to validate strategic directions?

Yes, please contact us.