Examination of Witnesses (Questions 280-299)|
22 MARCH 2007
Q280 Paul Rowen: Do you not think
that something such as an ISO
standard, which is internationally recognised and therefore easily
understandable and transferable to different organisations, would
be much more beneficial to the public sector?
Mr Herdan: ISO standards are used
in the public sector as well. Public sector organisations can
subscribe to set ISO standards. The most well know one is 9001
which is around quality control and production processes and routine
processes so it has a different role. IIP is another standard
that many organisations, public and private, use which focuses
on how you develop and look after your staff. Many organisations,
and most of the public sector, are accredited to that scheme.
These schemes have different purposes. This one is the only one
which focuses particularly on the question of customer service
and I think for the public sector that is really, really important.
Q281 Paul Rowen: You mentioned only
9% of all public sector staff are actually covered by a Charter
Mark. Do you not think that is part of the reason why there has
not been a great uptake because it is not understood like an ISO
Mr Herdan: Yes. There is this
issue of not being sufficiently and actively marketed. There was
insufficient knowledge of what it does. Maybe there are other
levers which are needed to make it more strongly of interest to
public sector managers. I mentioned, for example, the relationship
between inspection regulation regimes and the Charter Mark standard.
It would be much more interesting for many managers in the public
sector to go for a Charter Mark standard if they knew that some
of the regulatory burden would be lifted because the regulators
would see that the customer-facing issues had been dealt with.
That does happen a bit in Scotland, for example; the Ofsted equivalent
inspections rely on the Charter Mark. In some sectors a little
bit of that has taken place and a lot more could and that is what
the recommendation is.
Q282 Paul Rowen: The Government's
response says that in terms of the audit a lot of the work would
be outsourced. How do you envisage that actually occurring?
Mr Herdan: At the moment the Charter
Mark assessments are outsourced so that is done by assessment
bodies who are subject to independent accreditation to make sure
their standards are satisfactory so I am recommending that should
continue. There may be more bits of it that could be outsourced.
Q283 Paul Rowen: It does actually
say here that the day-to-day running of it would be taken away
from the Cabinet Office.
Mr Herdan: As I said, today to
a large extent that happens in terms of the assessments are all
undertaken by the private sector, accredited organisations and
I recommend that should continue. What is important is that in
the centre of government there is a unit which is promoting and
linking this to other parts of the public sector policy in terms
of how this links to other things like the Varney Review or the
Lyons Review, or these various things which have been going on
needs to be a gluing together of all of that. Also the Charter
Mark holders really appreciate recognition from the centre of
government of what they are doing so that must not be understated
Q284 Paul Rowen: What about the links
with the Capability Reviews?
Mr Herdan: There is that too.
The Capability Reviews go a little into this territory of "are
the services that should be provided being provided as efficiently
as possible?" There is a link to that definitely in the territory
of leadership, which is where a lot of the Capability Reviews
do not score so well. I would say that providing leadership to
your staff is a key issue in terms of the public service agenda
and the customer service agenda.
Q285 Chairman: If this is a public
service kite mark, why do we not require public service organisations
to get into the business of applying for it?
Mr Herdan: That was something
we did consider, whether it should become compulsory. That is
not out of the question but, as ever with these things, if you
are told to do them they might not have quite the commitment to
it as if you had chosen to do it. We did think about that. For
a period, being accredited as Investors in People was mandatory
for the central public services and you had to go for it. We looked
at that example and asked was that as good a thing to do as saying
you can chose to do it. Our recommendation, on balance, is not
to make it mandatory but to make it sufficiently interesting and
attractive that people will choose to do it. It is a lot about
enlightened management and it is something which people can chose
to do themselves through self-service, go on a website and do
themselves, or do it through an accredited scheme.
Q286 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Can I quote
something back to you: a "more rigorous measurement of customer
satisfaction using a common framework." How do you measure
customer satisfaction when a lot of the people you see do not
speak English? If people coming in front of the Passport Service
staff do not speak English, or do not know how to complain, and
certainly do not know what an MP stands for, how do you quantify
Mr Herdan: That is a challenge.
Actually a number of the methods which are currently used to measure
customer satisfaction suffer from all the deficiencies you are
hinting at. If they get a form to complete or collect a card from
an office they have just visited and they are not particularly
literate, or not one of the people who fill in those kinds of
things, then you get a very skewed sample. If they are not English
speaking and the form is only in English, they will not complete
it. There are better techniques to use around face-to-face discussion,
telephone surveys and things of that nature, or deliberate targeting,
to make sure you do pick up all those different groups and deal
with any of the inhibitions they might have towards completing
feedback forms. I think that is important. The other thing to
make sure is that the questions that are asked are sufficiently
rigorous, and are not just designed to get a positive score in
order to get a tick in the box. There is a great danger that that
Q287 Mr Liddell-Grainger: It is going
to be more difficult because you are outsourcing to towns across
the United Kingdom and if you want to continue the kite mark you
have to make sure that all those complaint procedures and the
customer satisfaction is at a level where it is not going to be
the same for say Rochdale, where Paul is, down to my rural constituency
in the middle of nowhere. You are going to have two different
types of people. If they cannot get there because there is a problem
with transport, it is going to be different. How are you going
to come up with a standardised system to make sure this is being
Mr Herdan: First of all by recommending
that people should do surveys which embrace the main drivers of
customer satisfaction rather than focusing too much on a single
dimension. That is particularly the result of the research in
Canada that we drew on. Also it would be very important that people
do use the right kind of techniques and not just rely on the very
simplest written post cards to be returned. It is about giving
advice. It is not about mandating to say you must do it a certain
way but about making sure that the surveys are designed in such
a way that will get the results that are needed. It is not necessarily
about trying to create a single result or expect the same result
in different communities. You would not necessarily get different
levels but it is about making sure that it is done rigorously.
I suggested, although I am not sure it is going to be picked up,
there could be some standard questions which apply across the
board so you do get some comparability at least within sectors.
Q288 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Is this
not fundamental? The passport is now becoming the form of ID.
We do not have ID cards in this country. You are now giving information
to the DVLA. All the other organisations come to you, the Identity
and Passport Service, for our photograph, our signature and everything
else. The responsibility of the Identity and Passport Service,
if I read it right when I went to visit it, is becoming more and
more fundamental to citizen identification. Is that fair?
Mr Herdan: Yes.
Q289 Mr Liddell-Grainger: If you
cannot get customer satisfaction all things start to go wrong.
Are you convinced in your mind that what you are recommending
is going to be taken up to a level which will pacify the citizens
of the country that the best is being done in their name?
Mr Herdan: If I turn to the example
of my own organisation, quite a number of our activities are outsourced.
To deal with the outsourcing question, our call centres are outsourced,
a lot of the IT is outsourced, the delivery of passports is outsourced
to a courier company. There is a lot of outsourcing going on.
We use phone surveys rather than written responses to deal with
some of the issues you are talking about, to make sure we do get
a statistically relevant sample across all applicants rather than
those who choose to respond. We also do mystery shopping of all
our different channels so people do go into our offices and score
the services and give us reports back. We do in-depth complaints
analysis so those people who do chose to complain we analyse all
that and draw out the lessons from it and change services to respond
to that. We have sought to benchmark ourselves against other organisations,
both in the UK and overseas. We are trying to do all that as well
as we can. We need to know what our customers are saying about
us and we need to keep improving.
Q290 Mr Liddell-Grainger: I came
back to Heathrow on Monday morning and the queue to go through
the British passport system was over 200 yards long in Terminal
Four. As you can imagine, we hopped up and down slightly because
it was not going away and then they reluctantly opened the non-British
part and the queue went down. I counted how many people were actually
looking at passports and how many were standing around scratching
their heads around the corner and there were more scratching than
working. You cannot quite quantify that. I was talking to the
people in the queue and they said this was normal. That is an
example of where the system is actually not working. Now that
is a fairly fundamental flaw. Here is a British citizen trying
to get back on a British passport, not the outsiders, and he cannot
do it because the queue went around the corner. There is a fundamental
failure. That is just an example. Talking to people in the queue
they said it was not all the time but certainly it was regular.
Mr Herdan: On the face of it that
is not acceptable; I would agree with you on that. There would
be questions regarding whether people are surveyed regularly,
the sort of the thing we have been discussing here. Are there
regular surveys of people using airports in order to get a review
back to the management of the immigration service as to whether
the service they are providing is satisfactory? That is a good
question. What are the solutions to that kind of problem? The
solution is not to stop looking at passports and say we will wave
through the next one hundred. That used to happen but it does
not happen any more. Passports are checked, and more data is checked
behind each person so it takes longer. With the new type of passport
we are now producing that has added to the waiting times as people
are aware. Other solutions will be around automating. That is
the direction we are heading, automated clearance so that people
equipped with the right documents would be able to go through
a channel which reads the document automatically and matches them
to it. There are technological solutions to that problem.
Q291 Mr Liddell-Grainger: You have
10,000 passports stolen by waifs, strays and generally dodgy people.
That does not look good, does it? I do not know how many passports
have been issued but 10,000, in my view, is a quite a lot of passports.
I am not suggesting you should not check passports because that
has to happen. We do not live in a world where you cannot do that.
Surely you need somebody to come in from the outside and look
at this as an objective exercise. How can we lose 10,000 passports?
Are we doing the job at the front line? If we are going to automate,
let us not do what the NHS and everybody else does which is cock
it up and cost millions of pounds on IT projects. We look at IT
projects in this Committee, and it is an unmitigated disaster
across government. Surely, from your point of view, you should
be championing the need for somebody to be brought in to look
at this as an objective exercise, so that none of this should
Mr Herdan: On the issue of the
numbers of fraudulent passports, which has been in the media a
lot this week as we announced that information, it is 0.15%. It
is nothing to be complacent about but you have to see it in context.
It justifies the measures we are taking. Going back to the theme
of this inquiry, it justifies a bit of a shift towards inconveniencing
people a bit more, making the process of applying for a passport
slightly more complex and difficult, in return for improved security.
The thing we are talking about, people having to wait to get through
border controls, is a kind of balance. There is this balance between
providing the very, very best service in terms of speed, the timeliness
factor within those five key drivers, versus the security that
people also want because they want their identity protected. They
want their passports checked. They do not want people getting
into the country who should not. It is a difficult balance but
I agree that sometimes having an external view is necessary, yes.
Q292 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Why do
you not get Tesco to help you? They deal with thousands of people
a day. They know how to operate with people. They are a people
business and they are pretty successful. They are bigger than
you are and they do it pretty well. Why do you not ask their HR
people to give you a hand? They would open check-out counters.
They would actually know because we all carry keys which flick
through. Technology is there to be used and understood but you
have to be bold enough to use it. Are you bold enough to go out
and embrace the technology?
Mr Herdan: Certainly, as we do
work with the private sector a lot, I am very interested in benchmarking
ourselves against the private sector. We did talk to a number
of private sector organisations including Tesco in this investigation
about what they thought we should be doing. We have looked at
Q293 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Are we
going to see the Bernard Herdan memorial lecture saying "I
champion this. This is what the passport people should be doing"
so that we are going forward to understand. It is not good enough
to say "I am sorry we cannot get the queue down." People
want answers. If something goes wrong and something happens in
our constituencies, we want answers.
Mr Herdan: I am sure we can learn
from the private sector in lots of situations, I do not disagree
with that, and we seek to do that where we can. I am not sure
Tesco is going to help us around the issues of fraud. They might
well have a lot of experience in queuing theory and how to minimise
queues so that might be a very good idea.
Mr Liddell-Grainger: They are pretty
good at it.
Q294 Chairman: Now that Ian has started
on the anecdotes: I had to send my son's passport to him at university
last year and it did not arrive, something happened to it en route.
Trying to interest the Post Office in this fact or the Passport
Service was impossible; nobody was interested. I was trying to
say to them that losing a passport, a passport effectively being
stolen in transit, is rather an important thing. The Passport
and Identity Service needs to know what is going on but nobody
was interested. They simply dished out another one to him.
Mr Herdan: They should have been
extremely concerned. I find that mysterious because we have a
system for recording lost and stolen passports. They go onto a
database and all border posts are alerted.
Q295 Chairman: I was trying to explain
to your staff why it mattered. You can see then why there are
thousands of passports missing.
Mr Herdan: We have a big database
of lost passports. If anyone reports a lost passport that should
be on our database. Your report will be on our database now but
you should not have encountered that attitude when you spoke to
Q296 Mr Prentice: I shall resist
telling you my passport anecdote. I have not seen any figures
about the number of organisations who have Charter Marks. How
many are there?
Mr Herdan: About 1,600.
Q297 Mr Prentice: How has that number
moved over the years?
Mr Herdan: It started off very
small with a few hundred to begin with, when it was an award scheme
and more limited in terms of who could apply, but in recent years
it has been around that sort of level. In terms of employees,
it is about 400,000 people who work for those 1,600 organisations.
That is the sort of scale so about 7% of the public sector.
Q298 Mr Prentice: Do organisations
ever lose their Charter Mark?
Mr Herdan: Yes. Our organisation
lost their Charter Mark after the crisis in 1999; it was taken
Q299 Mr Prentice: How many last year
lost the Charter Mark?
Mr Herdan: I do not have that
information. It is fairly rare. We could write and let you know.
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