The pursuit of service quality is a management philosophy. It requires structure and form, which can be achieved through a service quality framework. A service quality framework is meant to facilitate the achievement of the following goals:
- Extending coverage to all eligible participants;
- Ensuring sustainability of the system given financial framework;
- Ensuring fair and impartial treatment of everyone;
- Addressing fragmentation in benefit provision and service delivery;
- Mitigating risk and uncertainty through prevention and forward-looking interventions;
- Enhancing the general awareness to social security as an essential element of proactive and preventive responses;
- Responsive in times of crisis (economic, social and environmental);
- Fostering a high-performance culture in the institution.
These goals set the context for developing a service quality framework (Guideline 1) and establish a set of ground rules for all the guidelines. Achieving quality of social security delivery will ultimately determine how successful social policy initiatives are.
A service quality framework should establish the approach to be taken, from defining the business boundaries for the one-size-fits-all approach through to a differential response approach based on identified needs and wants.
The framework needs to take account of legal instruments that impact upon social security delivery, including service standards enshrined in social security law; privacy laws and guidelines; freedom of information principles; human rights legislation and policies; financial regulations governing investments, collections and payment distribution; electronic transaction laws; identity laws; and mutual obligations.
In establishing a framework, social security institutions must be prepared to challenge the status quo. Sometimes legislation and rules inhibit service quality improvements. Workable solutions can usually be found when all angles are explored. Institutions with the highest levels of service quality have often succeeded in modernising out-dated laws and regulations.
A service quality framework should describe the major participants and characteristics of the relationships within the wider service system. It must clearly describe the value chain between participants, including where responsibility lies for business processes and product and service quality. What may manifest itself as a service quality issue at the frontline of service delivery may be caused by a process or product failure within a participant institution. The framework must, therefore, describe how the social security institution will manage the activities of participant institutions which impact upon its own service quality.
A service quality framework is a living document and requires regular review and revision in line with the changing business, social and economic environment. It should be reviewed annually at senior executive level. Major revisions should be aligned with the corporate strategic planning process (e.g. the five- or 10-year plan).
Creating and establishing the service quality framework within an organisation is a significant corporate level undertaking and the mechanisms described herein will take time to deliver on.
Figure 2 shows the main six steps to implement a service quality framework.
Figure 2. Six main steps to implement a service quality framework