Examination of Witnesses (Questions 320-328)|
22 MARCH 2007
Q320 Paul Rowen: It is said the DWP
does not record the number of complaints.
Mr Herdan: Measurement of complaints
is fundamental. I am not in favour of setting targets to reduce
numbers of complaints because that encourages organisations to
suppress them and encourages staff to hide complaints in order
to get a good score in their annual appraisal. We do not encourage
that. What is important is to have a good method of making it
easier for the public to complain and a good method of collecting
all that gold dust, really valuable intelligence, about what your
customers are saying both through survey work and also from mystery
shopping, which is also fundamental to find out what is going
on in your organisation. In my job one of the key things is to
milk all of that information and use it to shape services. We
have also now started an initiative called Service Recovery which
is American terminology about looking at those people who, when
they respond to a survey, say they are satisfied but not very
satisfied. You are looking at people who are not actually complaining
but who are not overjoyed with the experience and trying to get
behind them, so those people waiting in the queue at immigration
who did not complain but were not happy bunnies. It is a question
of trying to get behind some of that data and say what could we
do to shift those people from satisfied to extremely satisfied.
Tesco would be in the same territory.
Q321 Paul Rowen: How much did it
cost the passport agency to bring about the changes? You were
able to raise your fees but lots of other government organisations
cannot. What would you say is your actual total costs?
Mr Herdan: These are matters of
public record. The fee has risen very significantly and that has
been partly due to the customer service provision but not only.
When I arrived in the Passport Service the fee was £21 for
a passport and it is now £66. Some of that has been due to
the customer service improvements. The first increase, which was
to £28, was entirely about getting ourselves into a position
where we could provide a decent service. Much of the fee increase
more recently has been about security improvements rather than
customer service. Also we introduced premium services, same day
passport renewal services and fast track services where the extra
cost of providing that service is directly recovered from the
customer. If they chose to have the premium service it costs £100.
It is a lot more expensive for us to do that service but the customer
is choosing so it is giving customer choice and they choose to
pay for it. More people want that service than we can accommodate
so we are usually having difficulty accommodating the numbers
who want that service, which is about 8% of the total demand.
Chairman: I went through the fast service
for a day and I spent the whole day queuing.
Q322 Mr Prentice: I went for a fast
track service as well and my photograph was rejected by one of
your people because my glasses clipped my iris. I said to them
"You are not going to send me out of the building again?"
and he said "No, there is a photo booth down there and you
will be able to get new photographs." I went to the photo
booth but I only had notes on me and no change and there was no
change machine. I was forced to speak to the reception people
and I said I needed change of £5 to get a photograph taken
so I could get a passport and they said to me "Sorry, we
do not give change." I said "I shall give you a £5
note, you just give me £3 back." There was this kind
of dialogue and I eventually got my £5 changed. That is my
Mr Herdan: That could have been
Q323 Mr Prentice: In the memorandum
we got from the British Medical Association they said, and it
sounds very like a new labour mantra, "With patient rights
should also come patient responsibility", and the patient's
charter was a rights charter only, with no mention of responsibilities.
My question to you is when you were thinking about re-launching
the Charter Mark did you consider setting out the responsibilities
of the customer as well as the standards that the customer could
expect from the organisation?
Mr Herdan: That is interesting.
Not as a blanket across the public sector but individual organisations
should be doing that; it is absolutely right. If you think about
the Health ServiceI am a director of a hospital board so
I am familiar with some of the customer services in the health
serviceone of the things that makes the health service
inefficient and creates problems in customer service is the number
of people who do not show up for their out-patient appointments,
something like 10%, which is a waste of resources and in the end
impedes customer service because those slots which could be taken
by other people are lost. I do think there is a two-way thing
there. Hospitals should make adequate numbers of appointments
and booking appointments in a good timescale but people should
be responsible and they should show up when they have their appointments.
Q324 Mr Prentice: The hospital appointments
example is a good one. Are there any other areas in the public
sector where a person's responsibility should be set out quite
Mr Herdan: In our organisation
it is about people's responsibility to complete the process as
we have defined it. If we say you need to fill in the form with
that information, we expect people to do that and if they do not
they will inevitably get into the cycle of rejection. In your
case, if you do not follow the photo standards that we have published
and your glasses are over your eyes, we would deal with it accordingly.
Mr Prentice: It was my fault.
Q325 Chairman: Your inquiry was extended
from the narrow Charter Mark issue to look more broadly at whether
we can measure consumer satisfaction. It partly came out of what
this Committee recommended should happen. Some of us have been
to Canada and were quite taken with the way in which the measurement
of satisfaction with public services was actually the key way
in which services were assessed. They had been going on for many
years with this concept called the Common Measurement Tool. We
were struck by the way when we were talking to the Canadian public
officials they were entirely talking about the way in which the
measurement of services had changed over the years. They all had
their objective to improve satisfaction over so many years and
so on. You were asked to look at some of this to see if we could
move in that direction here. What did you conclude on that?
Mr Herdan: I was very taken with
it as well. I used the opportunity and because I have contacts
with my opposite numbers in Canada I talked to them. I talked
to the head of the Canadian Passport Service about their experience.
I asked were they part of this and they said yes, they were part
of the annual survey which goes towards this customer satisfaction
index which gets published in Canada. They did not find that particularly
helpful because it did not tell them anything they did not already
know and was a year late in arriving, so a year delay between
survey and the results. It is quite a fast-moving business like
ours is but they do use the Common Measurement Tool. They do use
this sort of set of standardised questions as part of their own
survey work augmented by other questions and they found that extremely
helpful and they were very, very positive about it. They said
they did think that had been a good thing and had driven up their
customer service standards which had not been as good as ours
had been. I was very impressed so that is why I recommended, first
of all, that the Charter Mark should be designed around the five
drivers of customer satisfaction which came out of the Canadian
research, to a large extent, and some other work in the States
and in the UK. We should look at embedding in customer surveys
for the public sector some of these standard questions so that
you could get a degree of comparability at least within all hospitals
or all police forces.
Q326 Chairman: It is far more of
a common methodology being used across the piece. Who would validate
Mr Herdan: The way I think it
would work, certainly in the context of the Charter Mark scheme,
is the external accredited organisations would be validating that
those surveys had been done as they should be done, that those
questions had been asked and what was coming out of it. You could
also have, in the normal reporting within government departments,
the government departments sponsoring these different agencies
impose that requirement in order to make sure that it happened.
Then the Cabinet Officeif we stick with the model which
we should have with the Cabinet Office holding the ring on all
of this as the central co-ordinationwould make sure it
was happening across the piece.
Q327 Chairman: To go back to where
we started, this is the disadvantage of constantly restarting
schemes. The virtue of the Canadian scheme is it has been a fixture
for years so you are comparing like with like over a long period
of time. Our constant tendency here, to uproot things all the
time and start again, means we do not get that.
Mr Herdan: We certainly need to
run this for a number of years to get the benefit, I agree with
that. We have some comparable things with staff attitude surveys.
Because there is only a limited number of companies that run these,
if you get a MORI survey of staff attitudes they will give you
public sector norms based on years of data from a number of other
organisations so you can actually benchmark yourself and your
own staff responses. It links, as was mentioned, to the way they
serve customers, whether they are satisfied with their jobs. You
can get that norm and see if you are doing better or worse than
the norm across the public sector. The idea of the same kind of
thing could apply for these services.
Q328 Chairman: Have we failed to
ask you something you would like to tell us?
Mr Herdan: No. I do not know if
I have done justice to the report but I would like to think I
have. I am very concerned that this should get re-launched soon.
For me there is a bit of urgency about taking the opportunity
and moving with it. You are absolutely right that the linking
of this common measurement framework, some sort of common measurement
tool, to the Charter Mark is important. I would encourage you
not to get too hung up about whether you change the name or not
because I do not think that is terribly fundamental but it is
an issue that has to be dealt with.
Chairman: Thank you for this report,
it has been very helpful to us, and thank you for coming along
and talking about it which has been extremely helpful. You better
get back and find those lost passports now!
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