How to Measure Customer Satisfaction
In New Hampshire State Government
Division of Personnel
Department of Administrative Services
Customer Service in New Hampshire State Government
Statement of Commitment and Guiding Principles
Developed by the Commissioners Group
Adopted February 2009
“In New Hampshire, public service is all about great customer service.”
The citizens and all customers of New Hampshire expect and deserve a quality experience when interacting with their State government. The public servants of the State of New Hampshire deliver great customer service by:
; Recognizing that everyone we come into contact with is a customer
; Treating customers with dignity and respect
; Respecting and valuing our customers’ time
; Communicating in an open and straightforward manner
; Listening to fully obtain an understanding of what our customers seek
; Taking ownership of our customers’ needs and becoming part of the
; Striving to exceed expectations of our customers
; Committing to continuous improvement based on customer ideas
; Acknowledging and honoring customer service excellence
; Developing and assessing performance against measurable criteria
“The Commissioners’ Group is a group of commissioners and directors from a number of
state departments who met regularly to explore ways to improve the operations of NH state government.” The departments represented by the Commissioners’ Group include the following: Adjutant General, Administrative Services, Agriculture, Banking, Corrections, Cultural Resources, Education, Employment Security, Environmental Services, Fish and Game, Health & Human Services, Information Technology, Insurance, Justice, Labor, Liquor Commission, Lottery Commission, Public Utilities Commission, Resources & Economic Development, Revenue, Safety, Transportation, and Treasury.
Table of Contents
Desired Results 5
Creating a Culture of Service 6 Customer Service Groups 7
Communicating Service Standards 8 Survey Design Considerations 9
; Systematic Approach 11
; Determinants of Service Quality 12
; 5 Dimensions of Service Quality Matrix 12
; Sample Survey Questions using Determinants 13
; Program Effectiveness 14
; Customer Complaint Management 15
; Resolving the Immediate Issue 15
; Addressing the Underlying Cause 15
Analysis-Utilizing the Data 16
; How to Communicate Survey Results 17
; Define the Population 18
; Identify the Sampling Frame 18
; Specify the Sampling Procedure 18
; Sampling Procedures 19
; List the Sample Characteristics 19
Sample Customer Service Standards [based on the 5 20
Dimensions of Service Quality]
; Program Effectiveness 20
; Serving Well 20
; Conveying Courtesy & Respect 21
; Earning Trust 22
; Inviting In 23
Survey Design Checklist 24
; Early Design Stage 24
; Draw the Sample 24
; Design Survey Form, Instructions, and Questions 25
; Design and Create Cover Letter 25
; Pilot Testing 25
; Collection and Data Entry 26
; Analysis and Reporting 26
; Available Resources 26
Sample Correspondence 27
Sample Cover Letter 28
Follow Up Postcard 29
Sample Surveys 30
Sample On-line Customer Complaint Form 35 Sample “Face to Face Complaint Intake Form 37 Sample ”Complaint and Feedback Form” 38
Sample Customer Complaint Internal Administrative 39
Sample Customer Service Standards from various 40
Sources used in developing this model 51
Confusing forms! Busy signals! Misplaced paperwork! Long lines! Unfortunately, Government agencies often have a reputation with the public for poor performance. New Hampshire State Government needs to change that perception. Our standard should be “Customer Service equal to the best in the business.” How would such a standard affect state agency performance management programs? Significantly! A successful performance management program supports and promotes the accomplishment of an agency’s mission and
goals. It does this by aligning team and individual performance elements and standards with the organizational goals. This will aim everyone’s energies in the same direction: to provide “best-in-business” customer service.
A question state agencies may be asking themselves is “Why do I need customer service standards?” “We know what customer service is and what we’re supposed to do.”
That’s Great News! It sounds like customer service is important in your organization. How do you communicate this to your employees? To have an effective customer service strategy you need a written document outlining what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. A strategic plan with customer service goals is a first step. Developing customer service standards will take you to the next level. The purpose of this document is to help state agencies
develop customer service standards.
A comprehensive customer satisfaction program can lead to improvements in efficiency and effectiveness among New Hampshire state agencies, as well as increase citizens’ trust in government. Customer satisfaction surveys, complaint management techniques, and other forms of exploratory research will help agencies better understand their customers’ needs. A comprehensive customer satisfaction program can provide specific, actionable data to guide service improvement efforts. Furthermore, suggestions from customers and employees introduce fresh ideas to government processes. Customer satisfaction needs to be a priority for New Hampshire state government. By implementing the programs and policies described in this model, state agencies should be able to improve the level of satisfaction among their customers.
; Resource Management: In an era of tax limitations and budget cuts,
customer research is a resource management tool. Using expectation data
and importance ratings, agencies can identify their most-valued programs
and direct resources to the areas of greatest need.
; Speedy Resolution: Complaints can pinpoint problems and allow agencies
to address the root cause and avoid inefficient processes. Furthermore,
when complaints are not resolved promptly, frustrated customers seek
alternative avenues to remedy their problems. Effective complaint
management avoids external resolution in the courts or through the
; Best Practices: Creating a standardized system of measuring customer
satisfaction allows comparisons to be made among agencies. Best
practices can be gleaned from agencies with exemplary performance.
; Reliable Data: Having a research plan provides a clear vision for the
information that is needed and how it will be used. The research
methods outlined in this model employ statistical principles, so agency
managers can have more confidence in the results.
; Commitment to Customer Service: Customer satisfaction standards
communicate what citizens can expect from government and indicate how
the agency will measure success in attaining these goals. In addition,
incorporating customer satisfaction into published performance measures,
budget reports, and position descriptions demonstrates a commitment to
; Data Driven Decision-Making: The scientific rigor with which research is
conducted increases the likelihood the public will have confidence in the
information. Agency managers can communicate to stakeholders, using
hard data, the results of implemented strategies.
; Complaint Management: Effective complaint resolution is likely to maintain
or enhance customer satisfaction. Furthermore, complaint management
provides an early warning system, so agencies can avoid damage to their
Creating a Culture of Service
A genuine understanding of customers’ needs and expectations is a key
component of delivering service that satisfies customers. Organizations with strong customer-satisfaction reputations pursue this level of understanding through a variety of means including frequent focus groups, customer-feedback forms, formal program reviews, and systematic surveys among key customer groups. To improve performance, managers need to apply the insights generated from such activities when making decisions about program offerings. Furthermore, it is critical that this information be disseminated throughout the
organization to help front-line personnel make smart decisions when interacting with customers.
In the private sector, customers are generally understood to be the individuals who purchase goods or services. This concept of customer does not translate well in to the public sector. While the citizens of New Hampshire are the intended beneficiaries of government services, most agencies respond to other stakeholders as well.
When determining customer satisfaction agencies should identify the types of customer they want to survey. To help agencies make this decision we recommend state agencies use the following segmentation scheme proposed by Russell Linden, a former faculty member of the Federal Executive Institute. As can be seen in the table below customers are divided into four broad categories: clients, compliers, consumers, and constituents. Conflict among such a diverse
customer base is inherent in government, so an agency must refer to its mission to prioritize customer groups and to balance conflicting goals. It is
recommended that agencies survey “primary customers” first and expand their outreach to other customer groups as resources and priorities dictate.
Customer Service Groups
Proposed by Russell Linden
Source: [p.51]; Osborne & Plastrik [p.274]
Clients Those individuals or Fiscal responsibility;
entities that fund the program effectiveness;
service or program. agency actions reflect
Compliers Those individuals or Dignified treatment;
entities on the receiving consistent application of
end of enforcement rules; transparency; fair
Consumers The end users of an Quality, timeliness,
agency’s programs, flexibility, user friendly
services, or information. services.
Constituents The individuals and Program focus reflects
groups who have some their particular political
vested interest in the or programmatic point of
agency’s work. view.
Communicating Service Standards
Organizations concerned with customer service clearly communicate what their customers can expect from the organization as well as the customers’ obligations and responsibilities. In addition, customer-service standards articulate the organization’s expectations of its employees. The National Performance Review [NPR]  found that this approach significantly improves customer satisfaction while reducing customer complaints. Agencies are encouraged to work with their customers to identify critical elements of the service interaction and to define appropriate standards for each. Naturally, these standards must
reflect the expectations set forth in law and administrative rule, but it is customers – not agencies – that ultimately define quality service. Examples of
customer service standards can be found in the back of this document.
A telling indicator of an organization’s service culture is how its leaders respond to complaints. Research indicates that the best in business use a variety of methods to encourage feedback and have systems in place to manage complaints. Innovative organizations see complaints as opportunities to win loyal customers through effective resolution. Most dissatisfied customers never complain directly, instead they simply stop buying a company’s product or, worse yet, tell
others [agency leaders and elected officials] about their bad experiences. Encouraging customer feedback can help organizations understand their customers’ expectations and address problems quickly.
Investing in Human Capital
Effective customer services do not happen by chance; it takes a commitment from the organization to hire, train, and empower their employees. Specific, customer-service expectations should be included in each employee’s position
description and discussed at length during new-employee orientations. The customer-complaint workgroup for Industry Canada  found that the employees most effective at handling customer complaints have personal characteristics that make them good listeners and imaginative problem solvers. These characteristics include:
; Good communication skills
; Enthusiasm for and a commitment to effective, fair, and efficient
; Thorough knowledge of the organization’s structure and processes
; The ability to objectively assess all relevant factors about complaints from
the point of view of both the consumer and the organization
; The ability to identify systemic complaints and to devise strategies to deal
Front-line employees should be given the authority and resources to resolve most issues without having to consult management. Leading organizations recognize that customers typically direct their complaints to front-line employees, and they want their issues resolved at the first point of contact. Customers don’t want to hear a litany of policies for why the service person is unable to help them. Management that cares about customer service will allow employees to take ownership of a problem, to admit when a mistake has been made, and to do whatever is possible to correct the situation. This approach is consistent with research that shows dissatisfaction grows as the time and number of people involved increases.
Designing a Service Quality Information System
A culture of service demands that agencies always seek to improve the customer’s experience. To do this, agencies must have information upon which to base decisions. It is recommended that agencies design a comprehensive, service-quality, information system with at least the following three components:
; Regular customer-satisfaction surveys that assess both program
effectiveness and service interactions.
; A complaint-management system that helps agencies address individual
concerns immediately while tracking data to guide problem resolution.
; Employee surveys that assess characteristics of strong workplaces and
provide opportunities for employees to make suggestions for improving
Survey Design Consideration
Research should not begin until the agency is able to articulate a clear plan for the study. The research plan should answer three basic questions:
; What is the purpose of the research?
; What type of information is needed?
; How will the information be used?
Customer surveys are not opportunities to ask everything the agency ever wanted to know about its customers. Instead, focus survey questions on particular objectives. Agencies should consider their mission [s], goals, objectives, key functions and budget documents when developing a research plan. Furthermore, the research should yield information upon which the agency’s managers area willing to act.
It is important to consider the type of information the research will produce. Qualitative research [e.g., focus groups and open-ended questions] is helpful for gaining new insights on a problem or an initial understanding of the interplay of factors that customers consider. Qualitative research is based on the quality or character of something, often as opposed to its size or quantity. Alternatively, quantitative data [relating to, concerning, or based on the amount or number of something; capable of being measured or expressed in numerical terms] can yield powerful generalizations when executed correctly. Quantitative data is especially useful when it can be compared to results from other surveys to show trends over time or outcomes in similar organizations. Consequently, it is often a good practice to include a balance of open-ended and directed questions. Open-ended questions can add context and depth to the numbers by capturing customers’ actual words.
During the design phase, agencies should solicit input from employees to determine their information needs. The following questions are a good starting point. Remember that the purpose of the research is to help guide decision-makers, so its objective should relate to the decisions management has to make and the information needed to do so.