Quality Service and Service Standards

… a core concept in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107

Concept description

Leslie Pal (reference below) summarizes the movement to quality service and application of service standards in program delivery.

Pal describes Canadian initiatives in the 1990s (p. 211-212):

“The mid-1990s was a period of structural reform (however modest in the Canadian case), coupled with a focus on citizen-centred service, satisfaction, and quality. A network of Canadian public servants and policymakers became concerned about the “service gap” or the distance between what citizens expect from their governments and the level of satisfaction that they have with what they get. They launched a national survey called Citizens First to probe what Canadians thought about public services and what they wanted from those services. The first survey was conducted in 1998, with follow-ups in 2000, 2002, 2005, and 2008. The surveys showed that for some specific services, Canadians found the public sector more efficient and responsive than the private sector. At the same time, the surveys showed that citizens are dissatisfied with phone service (still the main channel of communication with government) and expect same-day responses for most inquiries. The five drivers of citizen satisfaction with services are timeliness, staff, positive outcome, ease of access, and recent experiences with services (Institute for Citizen-Centred Service, 2012). The methodology behind these surveys has been criticized, but even critics agree that the surveys have had a powerful influence in putting customer service and single windows at the centre of the service transformation agenda (Howard, 2010).

The importance of measurement

Pal (p. 212) writes:

“… This emphasis on quality and service would be largely empty if there were no way of assessing the success of achieving quality and service goals, and finding out what clients and citizens actually think about the services that they receive. Hence, the emphasis on service is almost inevitably linked to an emphasis on performance assessment, measurement, and results. … [I]t can be noted here that there are many ways of assessing outcomes and performance, from program impacts on specific targets to levels of satisfaction with services. … [T]here is a wide variety of approaches to measuring and reporting on performance; the important thing is that it is being done, and that in comparison with the older tradition of public administration, it is new. In the past, the reporting function focused primarily on the appropriate administration of resources, while policy evaluation took care of cost-benefit analyses of impact analyses.”

“Performance and satisfaction matter now because citizens matter more, not purely from an altruistic or “feel-good” posture by governments and public officials, but because the financial crisis required emergency measures that had to work well, and work quickly (e.g., Canada’s Economic Action Plan, with hundreds of projects across the country). Citizens are also, because of the impact of the crisis on jobs, mortgages, pensions, and other services, angry.”

See also: New Public Management.

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Promoting Innovation and Driving Change (core topic) in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107


Leslie Pal (2014), Beyond Policy Analysis – Public Issue Management in Turbulent Times, Fifth Edition, Nelson Education, Toronto. See Beyond Policy Analysis – Book Highlights.

Howard, C. (2010). Are we being served? A critical perspective on Canada’s Citizens First satisfaction surveys. International Review of Administrative Sciences, 76(1), 65–83.

Institute for Citizen-Centred Service. (2012). Citizen’s First: Top 8 highlights.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 12 April 2017.

Image: Lubbock Area United Way, at http://www.cissouthplains.org/integrated-service-model, accessed 6 April 2017.