Headlines: September 22nd, 2004

Improvement in customer service across the public sector is being limited because staff feel they lack the freedom to make final decisions. Across all sectors only 63 per cent of employees are able to actually resolve 75 per cent or more of the complaints they receive. The public sector is below this average. The research commissioned by HR Gateway and carried out by TMI also showed that the public services are one of the poorer performing sectors, but service is improving.The research also revealed a gulf between the way in which senior management promote the importance of customer service and the views of customers and employees of how they respond to the issue. Customer service staff are frustrated as they try to improve their organisation’s customer service procedures. Clive Hicks, senior consultant at TMI, says: “Mind the gap’ is the overriding message from this year’s report. We need to challenge the culture of ineffective communication between employers, employees and customers. Organisations must rise to the customer complaints challenge and take responsibility for closing the gap by listening harder to both their employees and their customers to ensure complaints are resolved more quickly and effectively.”

Customer expectations on swift handling of their complaints vary dramatically from the reality. Nearly all of the customers surveyed said they expected a response to their complaint within one week. This applies to 97% of customers who complain either in person or by telephone. Not surprisingly, old-fashioned means of communication, such as letters, are the least favoured method for complaining as they are viewed as ‘slow’ and less likely to lead to satisfactory resolution.