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22-07-1999 Quality Customer Service - Charting the Next Phase for the Civil Service

 

The Taoiseach today (22 July 1999) outlined the next steps for improving the quality of service provided by Government to the Irish public. He was speaking at the launch in Dublin Castle of the next phase of the Strategic Management Initiative: "Delivering Quality Public Service - Responding to the Changing Environment".

The Quality Customer Service (QCS) Initiative was launched in May 1997 to cover the two year period to October 1999. It was based on the principles of :

·        specifying the standard of service which customers could expect

·        providing quality information to them

·        providing service with timeliness and courtesy

·        setting up easy-to-use complaints and redress procedures

·        allowing for consultation with and participation by customers

·        providing choice, where possible, in service delivery and better co-ordination

·        improving the standard of public offices and reception areas.

Since then, Departments and Offices have published and are implementing Customer Action Plans which put these principles into practice. Improved procedures for handling complaints have been introduced, and customers are consulted more widely through the use of customer panels and surveys. Departments and Offices have also invested in staff training and in Information Technology in order to improve service to the public. Some, such as the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs, are developing the use of Information Technology in order to streamline service delivery and are co-operating in delivering information jointly to customers.

Speaking at the launch, the Taoiseach said: "Since 1994, with the launch of the Strategic Management Initiative, the Irish Public Service has been working to deliver excellent customer service. In doing this it has had to respond to a rapidly changing environment. Happily this changing environment has been one of growth and expansion ... The pressures now emerging, from the sheer increase in numbers in employment and the need to develop the economic and social infrastructure to meet increased demand, are very significant and pose tough challenges. Changes in service delivery through the use of Information Technology will also be increasingly significant ...

Over the last two years, individual organisations have made huge strides in improving their level of service. Great credit is due to them and to all the front-line staff involved in dealing directly with customers. Equally, I would have to be frank about the fact that there is, in many areas, a long way to go. I believe that the next step is in reviewing and refining the Action Programmes to meet the challenges of the next two year period. I want to energise this process and I believe that the important starting point for this is consultation with customers, because it is at the point of service delivery that the impact is made. I am asking Ministers and Secretaries General to take a lead role in this process because it requires strong leadership, a change in organizational culture to put quality service to the customer first, and it also requires resources. Good work has already been done in some organisations and we need to build on this and share our experiences.

For that reason, I am arranging that Departments and Offices be supported by the Quality Customer Service Working Group, chaired by Dermot Quigley, Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners. The focus of this Group will be clearly pro-customer and it will work with organisations across the public service to help support implementation of the Quality Customer Service Initiative by:

·        monitoring and evaluating progress,

·        sharing experiences and good practice, and

·        overseeing the development of mechanisms for benchmarking and for recognising improvement in quality service delivery.

 The Group will have representatives of the private sector and the voluntary and community sector, and particular attention will continue to be given to the needs of specific groups of customers such as users of Irish, people with disabilities and minority ethnic groups, including Travellers."

END

22 July 1999