Provinces must market public services urges report

While provincial governments have made inroads toward integrating service delivery , they need to step up public awareness about the services available to citizens, according to a recent report by Deloitte Canada .

The report, entitled Provinces in transition: Tackling Canada’s toughest policy and management challenges , notes that a critical next step for governments is to increase their efforts to make performance visible.

At a recent presentation hosted by Ontario’s corporate chief technology officer, Richard Steele of Service Ontario acknowledged that while the province had gone to great lengths to provide online services, much more could be done to promote their use.

“There’s very little knowledge that these services exist,” said Steele, assistant deputy minister of business development. “We’ll be putting more effort towards promoting awareness about what we do…we now have a marketing branch, which is unusual for government.”

Steele noted that on the integrated services side, 17 million transactions had been processed on the Service Ontario Web site since last year.

The efforts of Service Ontario on that front are lauded by Deloitte in its report, which marks Service Ontario as a “prime example of the efficiencies governments can achieve when they integrate services.”

The report also points to the Province of Quebec, which launched Services Quebec as part of its 2004-2007 modernization plan.

“By providing integrated services, Services Quebec allows citizens to obtain a wide range of services and information by traveling to a single place, dialing a single number or visiting a single Web site.”

Steele said the challenge now faced by Service Ontario was largely one of implementation. “Customers want timeliness and they want knowledge.”

He added that the agency’s other main focus would be to further integrate and bundle services, especially in the e-channel.

“We haven’t reached the stage where we can provide services over the entire life-cycle of individuals,” said Steele. “I think we’re at a point where there could be one online window for all transactions within government.”

However, he noted the agency would need to maintain viable in-person transactions as Service Ontario would not be mandating the e-channel as a way to conduct business with citizens.

“With respect to the changing landscape for Service Ontario, we’re looking more to integration and less fragmentation of our e-channel services and we’re aiming to do so over the next one to three years.”

Steele added that there were limits to integrating channels: “Our e-channel is no exception to challenges we face with complexity and implementation.”

In addition to making performance visible, the other next steps the provinces need to take as outlined by the Deloitte report are:

1. Establish citizen service as a defined capability: Provinces must adopt an enterprise- or province-wide approach to service delivery, leadership, management and investment.

2. Develop multi-year service integration investment plans: To navigate complex service environments while maximizing returns, provinces must approach service delivery as an ongoing process, plan service improvement investments in a coordinated fashion and invest in channel modernization and new organizational capabilities.

3. Borrow from other industries: Since citizens compare government service to that provided by other industries, provinces need to continually learn from and adopt best practices from other industries. Customer satisfaction surveys are a good place to start.

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