Public sector’s perception of service seekers can improve satisfaction

In Summary

• With the evolving dynamics in service delivery in the modern age, the public sector is fast catching up with the private sector in improving service delivery

Grace Wandera, the head of the Marketing and Communication Department at KRA.
Grace Wandera, the head of the Marketing and Communication Department at KRA.
Image: COURTESY

The word ‘customer’ has since time immemorial been associated with a person who buys goods or services from another person or business. The monetary factor that makes the process of buying and selling complete is the denominator factor that defines a customer. Going by the most basic dictionary definition of the word ‘customer’, it refers to a party that buys goods or services.

As a result, the term ‘customer’ has been synonymous with the profit-driven private sector that heavily depends on customers’ goodwill and loyalty to scale greater heights. Due to the invaluable worth placed on a customer, entrepreneurs and think tanks in the industry have coined landmark quotes underscoring the worth of a customer. Shep Hyken, an American Author, for instance, advises that “all of your customers are partners in your mission”.

Because of the precious value that the private sector has placed on their customers for the longest time, the sector’s customer satisfaction levels have been commendably high. Going by various research outcomes touching on customer satisfaction levels, the levels are higher in the private sector than the public sector. Interestingly, this is a global phenomenon.

However, with the evolving dynamics in service delivery in the modern age, the public sector is fast catching up with the private sector in improving service delivery to the people. Although the public sector is not in the business of selling services or goods per se, the term ‘customer’ is gradually taking shape in this sector. More than ever before, many players in the public sector are now becoming more customer-focused in the dispensation of their respective constitutional mandates.

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has been on the front line in aligning to the modern age approaches of ensuring customer satisfaction. Someone once posed, “Tax payment has never been a choice in any jurisdiction, why the sudden pampering of the taxpayer?” Although tax payment has never been a choice, KRA’s customer, the taxpayers, is still king. This is in full cognisance of the crucial role this customer plays in building the nation through provision of resources in form of taxes.

Leverage on technological advancement and modern means of communication have significantly pivoted KRA’s transformation into a more customer-focused government agency. To effectively serve the customer and meet their needs, KRA has implemented a state-of-the-art customer engagement solution, the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution. CRM enables KRA to have a 360-degree view of the customers engaging with the authority across all channels of communication. Through CRM, KRA has now been better equipped to handle customer issues more efficiently.

However, one might argue that employment of technological advancement only serves to improve performance of a system, which in turn begs the question; does enhanced performance automatically translate to customer satisfaction? According to an article by Deloitte, United States, (2017) titled Customer Service in Government, satisfaction is not the same as performance. The author notes that customer satisfaction is the difference between the perceived performance and the expectations. In essence, if the expectations exceed the level of service expected, the customer is likely to end up satisfied. In the same breath, the very customer would be dissatisfied if the level of service goes below their expectations.       

Even with the technology in place, the human resource element plays a crucial role in the making of either a satisfied or a dissatisfied customer. With this in view, apart from the use of technology to improve customer service, KRA has also reskilled the front line staff to align their skills with the dynamics of modern customer experience. This has seen a substantial transformation in the way taxpayers perceive the taxman.

The above factors, coupled with others, have seen KRA’s customer experience satisfaction index maintain an upward curve. For instance, between the 2013/2014 financial year and the 2016/2017 financial year, KRA’s customer experience satisfaction index improved from 65 per cent to 71.9 per cent.

As illustrated above, customer satisfaction is a significant fulcrum in the running of any business, whether profit-making or utumishi kwa wote, read as service provision in the public sector. Michael LeBoeuf, an America business author, underscored this assertion when he posited that a satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.

Just like any other business strategy, sustenance of customer satisfaction is very important to any organisation. One way through which KRA has over the years sustained customer satisfaction is by celebrating taxpayers for their imperative role in supporting the country. What started as a week of celebrating the taxpayers, then known as the taxpayers’ week, has in recent years improved to a month-long full of initiatives that celebrate the Kenyan taxpayer.

This celebration is marked in October of every year. Through different initiatives, the taxpayers’ month has gone a long way in demystifying KRA as well as improving the agency’s relationship with the taxpayers. The culmination of the taxpayers’ month is a presidential luncheon where outstanding taxpayers get special recognition and rewards.

This year’s taxpayers’ month is anchored on the theme, redefining service delivery in tax administration.  In line with this theme, the ongoing efforts aimed at transforming the view of a taxpayer as a ‘customer’ are one way of fostering excellent service delivery in the modern tax administration. This comes along with efficiency in service delivery.

The writer heads Marketing and Communication Department at KRA