Ontario is striving to achieve its service vision to be recognized for meeting or exceeding customer expectations for high quality, cost effective public services. Through its Service Framework, Ontario recognizes the need for enterprise management of end-to-end service delivery across an integrated network of service channels. The linkage between employee engagement and customer satisfaction is critical to the Service Framework.
Ontario is integrating its front and back office operations through the efforts of the Ministry of Government Services. Two ministry divisions, ServiceOntario and Ontario Shared Services, are changing the way services are delivered to the public and to internal government customers. Associate deputy ministers Bob Stark and David Hallett explained the reasons behind the changes.
Beyond the Toolkit
ServiceOntario is the key service integrator and delivery arm for routine government transactions – across ministries, programs, over multiple channels, for both business and individual needs. In the long-term, ServiceOntario will be the starting point for every public-facing service offered by the Ontario government. “Our objective is to meet or exceed customer expectations with our service, solutions, leadership and people…every time,” said CEO Bob Stark, who has identified six critical success factors to meet that goal.
1. Brand Values
“As the province’s ‘retail expert’, ServiceOntario is committed to providing high-quality, cost-effective, integrated services across government. We are focused on outcomes and value provided by a sustained, dynamic and innovative workforce that meets customer expectations and improves customer satisfaction with government services,” he said. Four values are the essence of the brand – and using the concept of brand could prove useful in helping conceptualize what is needed to build trust in public service:
· Access: seamlessly offer services that are fast, easy and convenient to find, use and understand: “People need to know where to go, that’s the first step in customer satisfaction.”
· Value: provide high quality services, delivered in a timely manner and at a price that convinces Ontarians they are receiving real value – effectively putting their taxes to work.
· Quality: focus on continuous improvement based on timeliness, professionalism, accurate information, consistent outcomes, and fair treatment. “We need to measure what we do to enhance our ability to track performance,” Stark commented. “We have designed our own ‘STEP’ program (Success Through Effective Processes) to instill a process-oriented culture across ServiceOntario. We need to change our focus from reactive to proactive, and ensure that decisions are based on relevant and supportable data, rather than the folklore. We are committed to process and discipline to achieve consistency.”
· Trust: “ServiceOntario will earn the trust of our customers by making protection of privacy, security, confidentiality and attention to accuracy paramount in the delivery of services,” Stark notes. Along with accessible, valuable, quality service, that should go a long way to building the brand.
These overlap somewhat with the Institute for Citizen Centred Service (ICCS) drivers. The importance of process quality across the organization is illustrated through one of the ICCS drivers – “staff are willing to go the extra mile.” Stark notes that when a staff member has to go the extra mile, it is often because the system is broken or dysfunctional. “We shouldn’t be asking them to go the extra mile every day. We should be fixing the systems.”
2. Service Offering
Despite the push to IT, half of Ontario citizens prefer to use the telephone to access government information, and a third prefer phones to apply for a program. So ServiceOntario responded by providing a central call centre and telephone support for the website. And in-person hasn’t been ignored. Unlike some private sector organizations, which drive people to their website and don’t provide phone support, or that charge more for a service delivered in person rather than on the web, ServiceOntario continues to provide in-person service. And is making it easier, by co-locating with federal offices where possible. Kiosks in high traffic malls provide license plate renewals, address changes, and fishing licenses. Multiple service options will be maintained, while encouraging e-access. Land Registry, for example, is now done online 85% of the time.
The first service guarantee, reported in our December 05 issue, has a very high success rate. Guarantees will gradually be extended to a wide range of online services.
3. Customer Service
“Our goal is quality service and customer satisfaction. Government has a distance to go on that, to be at the same level as the private sector,” Stark advises. “ServiceOntario allows us to concentrate on service delivery. We’re studying how to get better. We ask citizens – and find they are still confused about who provides what service and how to access it. We’re reaching out, meeting with private sector organizations to study their service operations. We’re looking at global research, and meeting with high quality organizations around the world.
“A service-oriented mindset is crucial for ServiceOntario to be successful. Staff must be energized to customer service at every level of the organization. To achieve this, we created ‘ServiceOntario YOU‘ – an internal program that provides employees with specialized training, rewards and recognition in support of service delivery, and introduced the program to staff earlier this year. Staff had an opportunity to share and discuss our vision, mission and values. We asked for and received their suggestions, and had real and meaningful discussions about what excellence in service delivery means. Through ServiceOntario YOU we try to create a safe environment in which they can express their concerns; 80% of staff ‘get it’ and desire to be on board.”
4. Cost-Effective Service Delivery
Through strategic alignment and an organization-wide commitment, ServiceOntario is building a culture that promotes operational excellence and effective process management in all aspects of its service offerings, leading to cost effective service delivery.
A reliable, accountable and agile infrastructure supporting strong delivery partnerships is crucial. “Building strong partnerships, both within the OPS and beyond, is critical to ServiceOntario’s success,” said Stark. “We are working with a number of stakeholders who are equally committed to helping us be successful in achieving our vision.”
6. High Performance Organization
A relative newcomer to public service – he previously worked at Imperial Oil, ScotiaBank, and Rogers – Stark marvels at the depth of experience and knowledge. “The calibre of people I have met within the OPS, and at ServiceOntario in particular, continues to impress me. Government does a lot of things right. In the private sector, outputs are clear and easy to measure – for ex