Public Service Value Chain links happy staff to citizen confidence

Since I started blogging, I’ve been trying to focus on making performance management practical. I wrote some months ago about the what Fortune magazine called “The World’s Most Modern Management Idea” when companies implemented policies that focused on staff satisfaction, after research linked happy employees to investor profits. This is known as the
service value chain
and it looks like this:

Staff Satisfaction arrow to the right Client Satisfaction arrow to the right Bottom Line Profit

Well, it turns out the same is true in the public sector. There is, in fact, a
public service value chain
that links engaged employees to better services to improved confidence in the public service, which basically looks like this:

Staff Satisfaction arrow to the right Client Satisfaction arrow to the right Citizen Trust & Confidence in Government

First hypothesized in Canada by Ralph Heintzman and Brian Marson, a number of studies have since confirmed and added to their initial research. Confirmation of this link has obvious implications for Public Service Renewal, and just goes to show how everything in the Management Accountability Framework (MAF) are intrinsically linked. The MAF is the balanced scorecard approach to evaluating public sector management competencies for each department.

According to research by the Institute for Citizen-Centric Services (ICCS) in Toronto, these five service drivers account for about 75% of satisfaction among individuals for person-to-person service encounters:

  • Timeliness
  • Outcome
  • Knowledge
  • Courtesy and extra mile, and
  • Fairness.

So, when designing services, and the performance measurement framework that goes with them, consider and measure these factors. And if you want to improve your client satisfaction scores, keep in mind that increasing engagement amongst your staff is likely to improve services.

For more research on eGovernment (definition) see ICCS’ research repository or the Australian eGov Resource Centre’s repository which they claim is the best place to find worldwide examples of eGovernment initiatives and research.

Modified & reposted from:

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Andrew Krzmarzick

Hi Laura – Do you have any real examples of government entities that delivered on those five factors? I love to ground this stuff in concrete stories…and how did they create the culture to be able to tell that story?

Laura Wesley

@Andrew – Yes, over 30 Canadian public sector organizations at all levels have used the “Common Measurement Tool“.

This tool is a set of survey questions designed to assess levels of satisfaction by exposing client expectations. Organizations can submit the results from their surveys back to the ICCS so they can benchmark how certain types of organizations are doing. This makes it possible to compare one’s organization against like organizations.

They also have released summary publications from both citizens and small-businesses/entrepreneurs that set some basic expectations for the way services should be delivered, for example – the public expects government to email them back when they submit a comment or question via email within 48 hours. Any organization can use the summary of citizen expectations contained therein as a starting point for their own service standards and commitments on how their services will be delivered.

Having worked at a number of organizations trying to implement continuous improvement cycles based on client feedback and other metrics, l Ican attest to how absolutely difficult it is to change the culture, even one that is already very client-centric, especially when it comes to publicly committing to response times. It really highlights the need to work better at documenting internal processes and looking for gaps or delays that could be automated, reduced or improved.

Not sure if this group used the Common Measurement Tool, but here is an example where client feedback was sought and used to improve services:

It has been mandatory to do so at the federal level for a number of years, and each department is rated on ‘citizen-centricity’ if you will through a balanced scorecard which we call the “Management Accountability Framework”. A number of barriers to implementation have slowed the progress, but many organizations are now finding creative ways to use social media, call centre stats and on-page feedback forms to bridge the gap between citizen expectations and meeting them.

More to come in coming weeks and months…keep on asking the tough ones so that I know what you’re interested in!

Joshua joseph

Laura, great area of research – thanks for posting. As you mention, the connections between employee engagement and client satisfaction (plus related outcomes) are well established in the private sector. Having done a couple of public sector studies on this with Gallup and some other well regarded academic partners in the US, must confess that I’m a bit less chipper about the public sector relationships than authors Heintzman and Marson seem to be.

In their article, they say that some of the relationships studied are “complex and sometimes indirect” — this was definitely our experience. In our studies, getting a problem “solved” by government was the biggest driver of customer (public) satisfaction with an gov’t interaction, which in turn influenced ratings of overall government performance. There was a nice indirect effect due to how employees perceived they were treated…it was more than fairness, maybe close to the concept of “going the extra mile” that Heintzman and Marson mention. In our work, we found that being treated well could change whether the same outcome was viewed as favorable or unfavorable. Our preliminary/top line results were published in a report titled “In the Public We Trust.” Unfortunately, most of the more in-depth analysis I mention above are as yet unpublished.

The caveat is that none of the effects in our study were overwhelming in terms of affecting overall perceptions of gov’t performance – at least nothing that would suggest increases of 10 percentage points in customer satisfaction numbers as cited by the Canadian researchers. It’s also not clear how this line of research translates to the many agencies that don’t have much interaction with the public. There might be a comparable effects for serving “internal” customers (e.g., other agencies) but that would be tougher to get data for.

Would love to hear more of your thoughts on this, Laura. Also interested in whether you have a direct line to Heintzman and Marson…I think it would be great to chat with them about our results and hear more about theirs.

All best, josh

Laura Wesley

Thanks Joshua – good to know someone’s actually collecting data. Don’t know Heintzman and Marson personally but could get access to some of the Canadian practitioners and academics and data sets who may be interested in pursuing this topic as an area of research. More to come…

Joshua joseph

Sounds good Laura – please let me know. We have a small team here that would also be interested in pursuing if things look promising on your end. — JJ

Laura Wesley

Sorry for taking so long to respond Josh. I did look into this and got lots of leads but nothing concrete in the way of moving forward yet.