Since 1998, the Institute for Citizen-Centred Service has been conducting Citizens First surveys to gauge Canadians’ satisfaction with public services and to learn what service improvements are needed. It has been a work in progress for the consortium of sponsoring governments – combining the effects of current events with unexpected twists. International take-up, acclaim, and replication are evidence of a coming of age for citizen-centred service delivery.
Canadians expect ‘more and better with less’, even though they acknowledge that government’s job is tough. John Ralston Saul maintains that, “… governments continue to deliver services that are and have been historically better in the long run than those provided by the private sector. Our lives are filled with these services. They run so smoothly that we scarcely notice them.”
The value system of progressive public organizations today is about service, not bureaucracy. Astute leaders understand the “public sector public service value chain” and the connection between employee commitment, quality public services, client satisfaction, and citizens’ confidence in government. It has become good politics to provide good services.
The drive to contain the cost of government encourages more self-service options and integration, streamlining, and co-location of services across jurisdictions. Service improvement strategies give citizens and stakeholders voice, promote smart regulation, harness new technologies, leverage financing, and institutionalize alternative service delivery.
Centrelink is widely regarded as the international benchmark in single-window, multi-channel delivery. For more than 20 years, it has been Australia’s one-stop gateway for citizens to access social services and entitlements. Its defining features informed the design of Service Canada:
• Platform integrating customized services, quality standards, networks, and choice of access;
• Statutory agency with management board governance and whole-of-government mandate;
• Strategic purchaser-provider of business partnership agreements with client ministries;
• Challenging efficiency dividends and reinvestment targets in the funding model; and
• Outcome frameworks, with 21% lower unit costs and 80% customer satisfaction the norm.
Innovative government is no longer an oxymoron. Many governments review public programs and services to select the most appropriate organizational forms and delivery mechanisms to achieve their objectives. They benchmark the international scene and borrow good practices to adapt to the setting. Lessons learned improve the prospects of “getting service delivery right.” With practical guidance, public leaders and managers are poised to capitalize.