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Guide II: Measuring Client Satisfaction

October 1995




Table Of Contents

Introduction

Definitions

Goal

Context

Rationale

Success Factors

Performance Indicators

Strategic Considerations

Implementation Process

Conclusion

Measuring Client Satisfacton Checklist

References




Introduction

A critical component of quality service is client satisfaction measurement. The following proposes strategic principles and ongoing processes for measuring client satisfaction.

Definitions

Client satisfaction

The client's perception that the service provider's performance meets or exceeds his or her expectations.

Client satisfaction measurement

The assessment of client expectations and of the actual and perceived quality of service.

Goal

The goal of client satisfaction measurement is to determine the level of client satisfaction with government services and the delivery of those services.

Context

Measuring client satisfaction involves creating the proper environment for:

  • conducting open, honest, transparent and ongoing consultations with clients;
  • involving employees (as clients and providers) in the entire process; and
  • remeasuring client satisfaction regularly to determine trends and the effectiveness of improvements that have been implemented.

Important client satisfaction measurement elements include:

  • knowing what clients want;
  • understanding client expectations;
  • designing services to meet clients' needs;
  • setting service standards;
  • setting performance measurement indicators;
  • empowering staff to meet clients' needs; and
  • communicating service and quality standards to clients.

Rationale

A key component of a quality service culture is client satisfaction measurement. Gaps that may exist between performance and client needs and expectations can be identified by:

  • improving the quality and effectiveness of government services;
  • determining service relevance and importance;
  • setting service standards by

- getting feedback from clients

- informing clients of the department's commitment to provide a certain level of service

- providing feedback to staff;

  • identifying opportunities for new services and for service adjustment, which could mean continuing, discontinuing, realigning or transferring services; and
  • optimizing resource allocation and use to balance client expectations with departmental mandates and available resources (people, money and time).

Success Factors

Successful client satisfaction measurement incorporates the following principles:

Knowledge

You should understand which services being delivered are important to the clients and to the government.

Leadership

Strategic support at the senior executive level as well as at all levels of the organization is necessary.

Tailoring

Make sure that the element measured relates to specific information needs, that it is measurable and that the information is meaningful.

Simplicity

Complex approaches are expensive and need a high level of expertise. Simple approaches can elicit practical and useful information.

Diversity

By using different measurement instruments, you can offset the limitations of each approach. This strategy also produces multiple lines of evidence, thus supporting more solid conclusions.

Cost effectiveness

Only essential information should be gathered. Efficiency and economy should be key criteria when deciding how to gather information. Sampling techniques and readily available data should be used to the greatest extent possible.

Reliability

The measurement instruments should be credible, accurate, valid, sensitive to change in clients' attitudes and consistent over time.

Regularity

It is essential to measure client satisfaction on an ongoing basis. Such regularity enables organizations to keep up to date with the environmental changes taking place and to assess the impact of changes implemented to improve client satisfaction.

Action

You should develop improvement strategies based on measurement results.

Note: Low complaint rates may not necessarily mean client satisfaction. Some dissatisfied clients may not complain. They may not know how, where or to whom to complain, or their location may make it difficult for them to complain. Some clients may exact "revenge" for poor service by spreading negative word of mouth instead of providing feedback to help organizations improve.

Performance Indicators

At one end of the spectrum, there are indicators to measure the client satisfaction process itself, while at the other end, there are indicators to measure actual client satisfaction.

Indicators for the measurement process

  • client response trends
  • number of client surveys undertaken
  • number of measurement tools used
  • consistency of findings
  • action taken as a result of the survey
  • amount of client feedback
  • change in staff awareness of client needs, change in staff commitment and initiative with respect to quality service
  • resources realigned in response to client feedback
  • findings and resulting measures reported to senior management and to the client in a timely manner

Indicators of client satisfaction

Many different indicators can be used to measure client satisfaction. The choice of indicators will vary with the service being provided. The following are some common performance indicators.

Facilities

  • accessibility
  • telephone access
  • professional appearance
  • hours of service
  • signage
  • use of technology

Communications

  • clarity
  • availability
  • use of plain language

Personnel

  • courtesy
  • helpfulness
  • competence
  • empathy
  • clarity
  • fairness
  • assurance
  • responsiveness

Services received

  • timeliness
  • value
  • appropriateness
  • adequacy
  • quality

Overall

  • value for money
  • satisfaction
  • likelihood of recommending the service or revising it
  • reliability

Strategic Considerations

Various departments have already done much client satisfaction measurement work. The federal Public Service as a whole is not beginning a new journey to measure client satisfaction.

The success of client satisfaction measurement depends upon the direct and active support of senior management, the training and engagement of staff, and the continual link between client satisfaction measurement and program delivery.

Strategic considerations should include the following:

Executive "buy-in" and leadership

  • Client satisfaction measurement will succeed only if clients and staff are both convinced of the active support of departmental leaders.
  • Departmental leadership must use client satisfaction measurement to drive change and improvement in service delivery.

Communications

  • Communication must be open, honest and transparent.
  • Employees should be involved early in the design process and be cognizant of both goals and end results.
  • Everyone involved in the process should respect proprietary information.

Education of senior management, employees and clients

  • Early in the process, talk to others who have experience in measuring client satisfaction, research available literature, consult with internal and external experts, and refer to case studies.
  • Many training courses on measuring client satisfaction are available. These may help employees design client satisfaction measurement tools.
  • The shift to a client-driven organization requires a change in mindset. For instance, when answering a telephone call where the caller has dialled an incorrect number, rather than simply saying that there is no one there by that name, a client-focused employee would help the caller find the correct number, and perhaps even transfer the call.
  • Shape service expectation boundaries and focus measurement on service delivery.

Government direction

  • While planning the measurement process, determine whether any changes in government and departmental direction could affect your initiative. Ensure that your plan accounts for contingencies, so that financial and/or human resources are used effectively and efficiently.

Resources

  • Sufficient resources - financial, human and time - must be allocated.

Implementation Process

The following seven steps offer a practical approach to measuring client satisfaction:

Step 1: Determine who the clients are.

Step 2: Determine the objectives for measuring client satisfaction and define the related information needs.

Step 3: Develop a measurement strategy.

Step 4: Gather, analyse and report information.

Step 5: Use and communicate client satisfaction information.

Step 6: Review the measurement practices.

Step 7: Repeat the process.

A handy checklist at the end of this guide will help you with this process.

Conclusion

Measuring and monitoring client satisfaction is not an end in itself. It is a means to improve service to the public and program performance in general. Client satisfaction measurement provides invaluable information for responsive and effective client consultation.

A comprehensive approach to measuring client satisfaction and using satisfaction assessments can bring considerable benefits to the organization if such an approach is seen, as it should be, as a management tool and not as a way to judge individuals' performance. If properly used, it can help you develop a client orientation throughout your organization.




Measuring Client Satisfaction Checklist

                                                                      Yes     No   

Step 1  Determine who the clients are                                              

        Have the clients of the program been identified?              ___    ___   

        Do these include both direct and indirect clients?            ___    ___   

        Have clients been identified for each of the organization's             
        products and services?                                        ___    ___   

Step 2  Determine objectives and information needs                                 

        Have you determined why you want to measure client               
        satisfaction?                                                 ___    ___

        Are your objectives for measuring client satisfaction clear        
        and has everyone involved agreed to them?                     ___    ___   

        Do they relate to the broader objectives of your program?     ___    ___   

        Do you know how you will use client satisfaction findings?    ___    ___   

        Have you determined what type of information you will need     
        to achieve your objectives?                                   ___    ___   

        Have you determined what you want to know about your           
        clients' expectations?                                        ___    ___   

        Have you determined what you want to know about the quality      
        of your services?                                             ___    ___   

        Have you determined what you want to learn from different     ___    ___   
        client groups?                                                             

Step 3  Develop a measurement strategy                                             

        Do you know how frequently you want to measure client         ___    ___   
        satisfaction?                                                              

        Do you have means in place to measure client satisfaction:                 

         on an ongoing basis?                                        ___    ___   

         periodically?                                               ___    ___   

        Have you selected the most appropriate methodologies for                   
        assessing client satisfaction in terms of:                                 

         the intended use of the results?                            ___    ___   

         the importance of your program and services?                ___    ___   

         the budget available?                                       ___    ___   

        Do you have different and complementary measurement           ___    ___   
        instruments?                                                               

        Is a plan in place to make use of the results of your                 
        assessment of client satisfaction?                            ___    ___   


Step 4  Gather, analyse and report information                                     

        Does your approach to data collection ensure objectivity?     ___    ___   

        Have you considered the input of performance measurement      ___    ___   
        specialists?                                                               

        Are you following the approval process for public opinion     ___    ___   
        research?                                                                  

        Have you gathered information on all selected service         ___    ___   
        indicators?                                                                

        Have you gathered information from both direct and indirect   ___    ___   
        clients?                                                                   

        Does satisfaction vary:                                                    

         among client groups?                                        ___    ___   

         among regions?                                              ___    ___   

         over time?                                                  ___    ___   

        Are clients' expectations realistic given their needs?        ___    ___   

        Are clients' expectations realistic given the                            
        organization's ability to meet those expectations?            ___    ___   

        Do your service standards relate to clients' expectations?    ___    ___   

        Are the clients' expectations consistent across and within    ___    ___   
        client groups?                                                             

        Has the cause of the major gaps between expectations and               
        actual quality of service been established?                   ___    ___   

Step 5  Use and communicate client satisfaction information                        

        Have the results of the research been shared with:                         

         your supervisors?                                           ___    ___   

         staff?                                                      ___    ___   

         clients?                                                    ___    ___   

        Are you using the information developed?                      ___    ___   

        Have strategies been identified to close the gaps between                
        expectations and the quality of service provided?             ___    ___   

        Have front-line managers and staff been involved in                    
        devising program adjustments?                                 ___    ___   

        Do you have clear standards for the level and quality of      ___    ___   
        service?                                                                   

        Is your staff involved in the development of service          ___    ___   
        standards?                                                                 

        Are your standards challenging and realistic?                 ___    ___   

        Does your departmental senior management feel comfortable                
        with your standards?                                          ___    ___   

        Are clients aware of your standards?                          ___    ___   

        Do you have monitoring procedures to assess performance            
        against the service standards?                                ___    ___   

Step 6  Review your measurement practices                                          

        Are your practices cost effective?                            ___    ___   

        Has the program environment changed?                          ___    ___   

        Is it necessary to refine service standards?                  ___    ___   

Step 7  Repeat the process                                                         

        Does your measurement process allow for change (do you                  
        periodically assess the need to restart the process at any    ___    ___   
        step)?                                                                     


NOTE: Not all of the above questions will apply to every client satisfaction measurement exercise. Therefore, there may be times when you can't answer some of these questions.

References

Arbor Inc. Customer Window Process (How to Use the Voice of Your Internal and External Customers to Achieve Total Quality;. 1991. A description of the process used when meeting with internal and external customers to determine the customers' needs and to reach agreement on improvement efforts.

Canada. Office of the Comptroller General, Evaluation and Audit Branch. Measuring Client Satisfaction: How to Design and Implement a Client Satisfaction Measurement and Monitoring System. Ottawa, 1991.

Canada. Office of the Comptroller General, Program Evaluation Branch. Measuring and Monitoring Program Performance and Service to the Public. Ottawa, 1991.

Canada. Office of the Comptroller General. Your Guide to Measuring Client Satisfaction. Ottawa, April 1992. This 12-page report offers an overview of client satisfaction measurement - how it can be carried out in an effective and economical manner, how it can help you deliver quality service to clients and how it can improve your consultation with them.

Canada. Statistics Canada. IMF Improving Service Quality: Client Feedback. Ottawa, 1992. This 20-page questionnaire finds out how clients perceive the Informatics & Methodology Field (IMF) services offered by Statistics Canada. The information collected through this questionnaire is used to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the services IMF provides to its clients. The publication is addressed to all middle managers in Statistics Canada.

Canada. Treasury Board of Canada A Declaration of Quality Service. (Draft)

Canada. Treasury Board of Canada. Developing Service Standards: The Steps Involved.

Canada. Treasury Board of Canada. The Government of Canada Service Standards Initiative.

Canada. Treasury Board of Canada. A Guide to Effective Complaints Systems: A Draft Discussion. 1994.

Canada. Treasury Board of Canada. Measuring Client Satisfaction 1992.

Canada. Treasury Board of Canada. Publishing Service Standards and Performance Against Them.

Canada. Treasury Board of Canada. Writing Delivery Targets.

Canada. Treasury Board of Canada, Office of the Comptroller General. Information: Line Managers and Assessing Service to the Public. Ottawa, April 1991.

Carr, David K. et al. Excellence in Government: Total Quality Management in the 1990s. Arlington, VA: Coopers and Lybrand, 1990. Chapter 5, Tools and Procedures.

Cassell, Ron H. "Seven Steps to a Successful Customer Survey." Quality Progress, July 1992. Preparation strategies are explained.

Dillman, Don A. Mail and Telephone Surveys: the Total Design Method. Toronto: John Wiley and Sons, 1978.

Gerson, Richard. Measuring Customer Satisfaction: A Guide to Managing Quality Service 1993. This 113-page book helps business owners and managers identify customer service needs, use quantifiable methods (as described in the exercises), assess whether the needs have been met and resolve potential problems.

Moore, Kathrin. "Service Works from the Inside Out" Making... Serving... Keeping Customers, October 12, 1992. In many organizations, different departments and their employees are literally each other's customers. Only when departments can satisfy the needs of others internally can the organization satisfy the external customer. By understanding your organization, its people and all its services, you will know whom to contact if a customer or a business associate needs something that is handled by another department.

Ontario. Continuous Improvement Services Inc. and Erin Research Inc. Best Value for Tax Dollars: Improving Service Quality in the Ontario Government. Toronto, 1992.

Ontario. Ministry of Revenue. Practical Marketing Research: Measuring Customer Satisfaction in the Government Environment. Toronto, June 1992. Outlines the growing need for market research and customer satisfaction measurements, and discusses ways to develop and use customer satisfaction questionnaires.

Parasuraman, A., et al. "A Conceptual Model of Service Quality and its Implications for Future Research." Journal of Marketing, Fall 1985. The authors offer a model by which quality in intangible services can be evaluated. Directions for future research are suggested.

Rocine, Victor. "Putting the Public First: The Art of Listening to Your Clients." Bulletin: Institute of Public Administration, Vol. 12, 5 (1989).

Rossi, Peter, et al. (eds.) Handbook of Survey Research. San Diego, CA: Academic Press Inc., 1983.

Walton, Mary. The Deeming Management Method.

Zeithaml, Valerie A., et al. Delivering Quality Service: Balancing Customer Perceptions and Expectations. New York: Free Press, 1990.

Zielinski, Dave. "Understanding Customer Expectations." Service Edge, September 1989.