Measure what you want to improve

BAWA GROVER | Updated on January 19, 2018 Published on January 21, 2016



Investing more in infrastructure or other sectors must be done after assessing how effective existing public services are

While big-ticket investments are being planned in infrastructure and other sectors, too, the question that needs to be answered now is this: What is being done to improve the utilisation of the existing infrastructure, to improve the quality of the services being offered by government agencies?

It all boils down to: Should we build more schools, colleges, hospitals, power plants and distribution utilities, new roads, railway lines and trains, new toilets, or maintain the existing facilities better? While we add capacity for a growing country, shouldn’t we first ensure that the existing public infrastructure is working well and serves citizens well?

But to ensure that, we need to measure the effectiveness of these services objectively, as seen by the citizens. Is that possible? Yes, this is already being done in countries such as Singapore, the US, the UK, Sweden and Canada.

How the world does it

One established methodology is the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), a globally respected customer satisfaction measurement and benchmarking index, with presence in more than a dozen countries around the world. ACSI was developed by the National Quality Research Center (NQRC) at the University of Michigan, US.

The US, Sweden and Singapore government bodies have been using ACSI methodologies to measure citizen satisfaction with central, state and public sector organisations.

The Customer Satisfaction Index of Singapore is a body of the Singapore Government, which works to raise service standards and to propagate a culture of service excellence across Singapore.

Measuring users’ satisfaction with public goods and services is at the heart of a citizen-centric approach to service delivery and an important component of government and organisational performance strategies for continuous improvement. Feedback obtained directly from citizens (sampled randomly) is used to statistically evaluate and analyse citizens’ experiences with government organisations, to obtain distilled views of citizens and quantitative indexed scores on the outputs (service) received from government organisations and benchmark the same with their peers and across sectors/nations.

The analysis can help public managers identify which specific elements of service delivery drive satisfaction and so need to be acted upon as priority for greatest impact on citizen satisfaction. It can also monitor the impact of reforms on end-users. Measuring citizen satisfaction is also a means of allowing policy-makers and managers to better understand their customer base, helping to identify sub-groups of users and needs, or gaps in accessibility. Moreover, citizen satisfaction can be an important outcome indicator of overall government performance.

We need to measure what we need to improve. Therefore isn’t it necessary to measure, benchmark and publish citizen satisfaction with government and public sector services in India as well?

Avoid unnecessary spends

Imagine how transformational it will be if we could measure (objectively and independently) and publish openly and frequently (say, every year/half-year/quarter), specific citizen satisfaction scores with central government, state governments, various public sector organisations and agencies. And not just publish the satisfaction scores to drive competitiveness to improve, but also make available to them diagnostics on what specifically to improve to enhance their scores, as done by some of the citizen satisfaction measurement frameworks in use in many countries.

This will not just improve the operation and utilisation of India’s existing infrastructure but also radically reduce the incremental expenditure needed to meet the infrastructure gap in India, to bridge the expectations of not just a growing, but an increasingly vocal, impatient population.

The author is Managing Partner, Hexagon Consulting

Published on January 21, 2016
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