What is citizen-centred service?
What is citizen-centred service? Why is it different from client centred service, and why is the ICCS founded upon this concept?
Since 1997, the Canadian approach to service improvement in the
public sector has consistently described itself as “citizen-centred”.
The collaborative institution established by the Canadian service
delivery community is now called the Institute for Citizen-Centred
Service. Why should service delivery in the public sector be
“citizen-centred,” and why do we use this term? There are at least six
- The delivery of government services should be conceived and executed
from the “outside-in” – not inside-out – with the needs, perspectives,
improvement priorities, and satisfaction of Canadians foremost in mind.
An “outside-in” perspective will therefore lead us to pay attention to
citizens’ service improvement priorities and needs, and to their levels
of satisfaction with individual services. In a citizen-centred approach,
citizen satisfaction becomes the criterion for success, and the basis
for results measurement in public sector service delivery.
- A citizen-centred, “outside-in” approach also helps to highlight the
challenge of “access”: citizens have to work through the maze of public
sector organizations and services to get what they need, and we can
only truly meet citizens’ complex service needs by working together
across organizations and governments to provide seamless, integrated
service to citizens.
- Even more important, the clients of government services are not
“just” clients, as they might be in the private sector. They are not
just consumers of government services. They are usually also taxpayers
and citizens, that is: bearers of rights and duties in a framework of
democratic community. As taxpayers and members of a civic or democratic
community, citizens “own” the organizations that provide public
services, and have civic interests that go well beyond their own service
needs. While clients of the Government of Canada are usually citizens
of this country, they may also be potential citizens of Canada, or
citizens of another country with a business, professional or personal
interest in Canada.
- Many of the clients of government are “involuntary clients,” whose
service relationship with government derives not from choice but rather
from their obligations as citizens, or from the rights of other
citizens. That is one reason why “fairness” is among the five top
drivers of Canadians’ satisfaction with the quality of government
- Those who deliver government services may have to balance the
distinct interests and needs of different categories of citizens, within
the broader framework of the public interest. They may also have to
balance the interests of immediate or direct clients with those of the
citizens of Canada as a whole. The satisfaction of immediate “clients”
needs to go hand in hand with the confidence of all citizens in the
institutions of government.
- Perhaps most important, service delivery in the public sector should
be citizen-centred because every act of service is a “moment of truth”
in which Canadians form an impression – positive or negative – about the
effectiveness of public institutions and about the potential of
democratic government. The service experience either increases or
decreases Canadians’ confidence in public institutions, and in the
degree to which they are capable of fulfilling their democratic
missions. It thus enhances or diminishes Canadians’ confidence in the
potential of their own democratic citizenship. Those who deliver
government services should always bear in mind that the quality of
government service delivery can and should contribute to strengthen
democratic citizenship, and the bonds of confidence and trust between
citizens, and between citizens and their democratic institutions. Public
sector “clients” are also citizens, whose pride and belief in their own
democratic citizenship can be strengthened or weakened by the service