Headlines: February 16th, 2000

The 2000/01 market research budgets for central departments boosted to support evidence based policy development are set to increase substantially the following year. The drive to move public service culture to focus on the customer will create a demand for further market research funding.The information required for the customer focus approach is similar, and in some cases identical, to that needed for evidence based policy making. Both must have data about the needs and views of customers and potential customers. User satisfaction and service expectation findings will provide a critical input. Currently many public service organisation know little or nothing about who their customers are, but in future they will have to devise user profiles to make sense of the data they are collecting.

Among the methods to be used for gathering customer information are representative surveys, which can be face to face, or by telephone or post; qualitative research such as focus groups and depth interviews; point of contact feedback forms; consumer panels and mystery shopping. Continued use will also be made of the 5000 strong People’s Panel.

Discussions are now taking place on the 2000 Spending Review which will be completed by the Summer. The new Public Service Agreements, which will emerge from the Review, will come with a price tag attached to customer focus targets. It has become clear that the Treasury will look favourably on bids for market research which support the priority of customer focus.

The likely beneficiaries for this new funding include government agencies such as the Office for National Statistics, market research companies and academic institutions.

Links: Professional Policy Making for the 21st Century –http://www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/moderngov/1999/policy/index.htm

A New Consumer Focus for Public Services: http://www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/servicefirst/2000/consumer/consumerfocus.htm