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ARCHIVED - Service Improvement Initiative - Toolbox

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Client Feedback Tools

Focus Groups

A focus group is a small group, usually between six and twelve people, brought together to provide views on particular services and products in a consensus-building discussion. These groups stimulate discussions on specific topics, and are useful for gathering balanced and detailed input from a variety of clients with different perspectives. Focus groups encourage innovative thinking and consensus building around a specific product, service or service delivery process. A discussion guide often helps to direct the group. The guide focuses the discussion on to specific topics to ensure the information required is obtained.

Within the service improvement initiative, focus groups can be used in the assessment process to identify what is important for the client in terms of service and what could be a good service in terms of standards. Focus group could also be used in the middle of the process to identify solutions or actions to undertake to improve service or to better understand what is the meaning on specific comments provided by the clients within a survey or a comment card.

Tips on conducting successful client focus groups

  • Small focus groups (between six and ten participants, including moderator) are generally more successful than larger groups;
  • The recruitment process should ensure the group is representative of the whole target group;
  • The goal is to reach a consensus among group members;
  • A moderator is needed to lead the discussion group. This person should: ensure all relevant topics are covered, everyone has had the opportunity to voice their opinions, and the results of the session are recorded;
  • Outline the general purpose and overall approach for discussion to all participants at the start of the discussion meeting;
  • Each person should be encouraged to actively participate in the discussion and voice their opinions;
  • Some topics can be facilitated through graphics, flip charts, video, etc.;
  • Refreshments could be provided.

Common Measurements Tool

The Common Measurements Tool (CMT) provides public organizations with a set of standard questions and standard measurement scales for use in surveying their clients. It must be stressed that it is a tool, not a "ready-to-use" client satisfaction survey. Rather, it is a comprehensive collection of potential survey questions that an organization may select from to custom design a client satisfaction survey that meets their information requirements. Organizations are encouraged to select those sections that are most appropriate to their services and clients. The use of standard questions allow the organization to benchmark progress on its service improvement journey over time, and since questions are standard, organizations can compare results with other organizations within the same business line. To ensure this ability to benchmark performance, several core questions will be required for inclusion in all surveys. These are presented on the following page.

The CMT is also a client satisfaction survey, not a citizen survey. A client survey deals with questions about service delivery at an operational level and specifics of the service delivery experience, such as the time required to deliver service, whether staff were courteous, and accessibility of the service. In contrast, a citizen survey addresses issues indirectly related to the delivery of services, such as the service delivery mechanisms and structures.

Designed to provide client feedback to any public organization and ensure that all aspects of client service are considered, the CMT is conceived around five key elements: client expectations, perceptions of the service experience, satisfaction levels, levels of importance, and priorities for service improvements. These are the basis for the types of questions asked in the CMT, which is arranged around five dimensions of service delivery: responsiveness, reliability, access and facilities, communications, and cost (where applicable).

With a focus on these five elements, the organization is able to know the degree of client satisfaction on various aspects of service delivery, and what clients consider important in the service delivery. When the priorities for improvement are considered and the expectations known, the organization can then focus efforts that will best serve to close the service gap in meeting the needs, expectations, and priorities of clients.

Comprehensive information on the five key service delivery elements provides a solid foundation on which to base decision-making, such as the areas to focus improvement efforts and resource allocation. It may also help in the management of client expectations, if those expectations are unrealistic or achievable, through better communication with clients.

CMT Core Questions

Comment Cards

In addition to surveys, comment cards are a common method to gather feedback from clients. Both tools provide some of the same information, but each is intended for a specific purpose. A survey is intended to gather information that can be analyzed and results benchmarked over time. The process uses a methodology that ensures that the results are representative and statistically valid. This allows the organization to know with a degree of certainty the extent to which service improvement efforts have impacted customer satisfaction, and to make strategic decisions based on the information.

Comment cards only provide broad opinions, which are often valid, but which cannot be used to track changes. As they do not follow a rigorous methodology, they are not considered statistically valid or representative of the client base. Since anyone can complete a comment card, in many cases they are only completed after a negative experience and have been referred to as "complaint cards." The primary purpose of the comment card is to provide information to staff quickly to so that operational problems can be corrected as soon as possible, notably on the key drivers of service (e.g. timeliness, staff courtesy, staff competence, quality of information, fairness, and outcome of the service). In addition, comment cards emphasize open-ended questions for broader comments on the service experience. Comment cards, as such, serve to supplement rather than replace a customer satisfaction survey. A generic comment card can be found here in PDF (107KB) or RTF (453KB) formats.