Headlines: July 19th, 1999

The third wave of results from research using the 5000 strong People’s Panel shows that quicker responses are expected. Most of the Panel (94%) want councils and government departments to reply to their letters within two weeks. Most departments have targets to respond in three weeks or more, but few achieve 100% success. The Department for Culture Media and Sport, the Child Support Agency and the Department of Health only achieve about two thirds of their targets.

The Panel also expect a prompt response to telephone calls. Over two thirds of Panel members want calls answered within one minute. Despite the burgeoning use of the telephone no central standards or advice on standards have been issued.

The greatest challenge emerging from the survey is the speed of response expected by Panel members who use e-mail. A resounding 85% expect a reply to their e-mail within three working days. It is difficult to imagine how organisations that now struggle to respond to letters in 15 working days, and often fail to do so, will be able to raise their performance to meet the expectations of e-mail users. There is no national standard for e-mail responses, but clearly there is need for one to be published. Responding to e-mails in an acceptable time will be a major test of integrating traditional processes with information age government.