The Ways of Increasing the Level of Customer Satisfaction within Public Sector
Secondary data authors have proposed specific strategies public sector organisations can use in order to increase customer satisfaction levels. The most popular recommendations proposed by secondary data authors include adopting business approach towards the issues of customer services, increasing the level of funding of customer services, institutionalising training and development programs for public sector customer service representatives, outsourcing customer services operations to the private sector, and increasing the level of accountability of public sector customer service managers.
Adopting Business Approach towards the Issues of Customer Services
The most popular recommendation found during the literature review in terms of increasing the quality of customer services in public sector organisations relates to the adoption of relevant business principles. Recommendations of this nature have been offered by authors like Kassel (2010), Sims (2010) and Starling (2010). The authors point to the high customer service standards in the private sector, and argue that the duplications of those practices by public sector could offer the benefits of increased levels of customer services.
However, there is a serious shortcoming associated with the works of above mentioned authors. Specifically while they give a recommendation of adopting business approach towards the issues of customer services they recommendation is very general and authors fail to offer any specific guidance in terms of how the business approach could be efficiently adopted by public sector organisations.
Increasing the Level of Funding of Customer Services
Beevers (2006), Flynn (2007) and Bovaird and Loffler (2009) associate the issues of lower customer services quality in public sector compared to the level of customer services of private sector to the amount of funding organisations in each sector attract. The authors convincingly argue that private sector organisations justly associate the achievement of their organisational objectives with the level of customer satisfaction that is directly related to the levels of customer services. Accordingly, the majority of private sector organisations commit to substantial financial investments in order to improve the overall quality of customer services offered by the organisation.
This stand is particularly stressed by Flynn (2007) who confirms that in the majority of public sector organisations the achievement of organisational objectives is not associated with the high level of customer services from the management’s viewpoint, thus significantly lower level of funding is distributed to facilitate customer services in public organisations compared to organisations operating in the private sector.
Moreover, it has to be noted that “any public institution has as its primary objective the promotion of the general welfare of the inhabitants it serves. It is therefore essential that a public institution obtains clarity with regard to who its clients are, what their needs are and what action it is going to take to satisfy their needs” (Waldt, 2004, p.149).
Nevertheless, Beevers (2006), Flynn (2007), and Bovaird and Loffler (2009) propose a specific recommendation according to which the level of funding of customer services in public sector needs to be dramatically increased in order to improve its quality.
However, it has to be stressed that practical implementation of this recommendation is associated with a range of serious difficulties that include tight budget of public sector organisations, as well as, distribution of funds done at a higher level than the management of any specific public organisation.
Institutionalising Training and Development Programs for Public Sector Customer Service Representatives
Secondary data research has established consistent training and development of customer service representatives in private sector organisations as one of the main reasons behind the high quality of their performances. Bourn (2007) and Wirick (2009) recommend public sector organisations to implement these practices as well. Specifically, the authors assert that training and development programs need to be organised for customer service employees in public sector organisations in order to improve the overall quality of customer services in public sector organisations.
Yet, there are specific obstructions on the way of implementation of this advice in practice. As it has been noted above one of the most significant disadvantages faced by public sector organisations relate to tight budget and financial constraints. Accordingly, public sector organisations might face financial challenges in terms of organising training and development programs for their customer services staff on a regular basis.
Outsourcing Customer Services Operations to Private Sector
Sims (2010) proposes outsourcing the customer service operations of public sector organisations to private sector companies as one of the possible measures of increasing their quality. The author points to effective customer service practices in private sector and argues that public sector organisations can benefit from those practices as well by forming long-term relationships with relevant organisations in private sector.
However, not all secondary data authors share this viewpoint. For instance, it has been stated that “in many contexts, pubic organisations have seen outsourcing and privatising as solutions to poor customer service and inefficiency. But outsourcing has failed on many occasions” (Kamin, 2006, p.5).
The reasons for the failure have been explained by Kamin (2006) as fundamental differences in organisational objectives, as well as vast differences in corporate cultures between private and public organisations.
Increasing the Level of Accountability of Public Sector Customer Service Managers
Flynn (2007) and Starling (2010), on the other hand, suggest that the level of accountability of public sector customer service managers needs to be increased in order to increase the overall quality of customer services in that sector.
The issue of accountability of managers in both, private and public sectors and its impact on the level of customer services have been discussed by Flynn (2007) in a detailed manner. The author convincingly argues that “accountability is more diffuse in the public sector. Managers of private services are accountable to shareholders for attracting enough customers at the right price to make a profit. Public sector service managers are accountable, ultimately, to their customers through the political process. They are also accountable to people who are not customers but taxpayers and to their elected representatives” (Flynn, 2007, p.165).
Accordingly, Flynn (2007) recommends clarifying the level of accountability of public sector managers as an integral part of measures aimed at improving the quality of customer services within public sector.
There also have been attempts in the literature to link the ways of increasing the level of customer satisfaction in public sector to government initiatives. Specifically, it is stated that “there are number of prerequisites for effective reform of the public sector including: political will, enlightened and credible public service leadership, and a realistic reform strategy” (Zapico-Goni and Wholey, 2007, p.11).
Remeyni (2002) recommends close integration of latest information technology into the provision of customer services within public sector. He argues that “customer tracking and information integration will ensure so that citizens not need to repeat their problems to a variety of staff on subsequent calls or visits, and that staff are aware of the relevant history of each citizen when they deal with their enquiry” (Remeyni, 2002, p.300).
- Beevers, R, 2006, Customer Service Excellence in the Public Sector, Northern Housing Consortium
- Bovaird, T & Loffler, E, 2009, Public Management and Governance, Taylor & Francis
- Bourn, J, 2007, Public Sector Auditing: is it value for money? John Wiley & Sons
- Flynn, N, 2007, Public Sector Management, 5th edition, SAGE Publications
- Kamin, M, 2006, Customer Service Training, Elseiver
- Kassel, DS, 2010, Managing Public Sector Projects: A Strategic Framework for Success in an Era of Downsized Government, Taylor & Francis
- Remeyni, D, 2002, 2nd European Conference on E-Government, Academic Conferences Limited
- Sims, RR, 2010, Change (Transformation) in Public Sector Organisations, IAP
- Starling, G, 2010, Managing the Public Sector, Wadsworth
- Waldt, GV, 2004, Managing Performance in the Public Sector: Concepts, Considerations and Challenges, Juta and Co Ltd
- Wirick, DW, 2009, Puclic-Sector Project Management: Meeting the Challenges and Achieving the Results, John Wiles & Sons
- Zapico-Goni, E & Wholey, J, 2007, Monitoring Performance in the Public Sector, Transaction Books