Canadian Heritage cuts red tape with service improvement program

When Stephanie Ashton, director of service improvement for Canadian Heritage, was presented with the challenge of improving service levels for CAVCO – an association of 650 TV and film production companies – she called in consulting firm Systemscope and developed a strategy based on using a Common Measurement Tool (CMT) to figure out where the process was breaking down and identify what clients actually wanted.

CAVCO members can apply for substantial tax breaks for complying with Canadian content regulations as defined by the Canada Revenue Agency. These incentives can amount to 25 per cent of production costs and can mean the difference between going ahead with a project or not. As a result CAVCO generates more than 2,500 applications each year.

Prior to the service improvement program it took at least 14 weeks to process an application, which included 135 steps. Complicating the job was the fact that 75 per cent of all applications were incomplete and required extensive follow-ups.

“We knew this was a great opportunity for us to improve our service while cutting costs,” Ashton told a recent session at the Government and Health Technologies Forums 2005 in Ottawa.

Following the half-million dollar service improvement program Canadian Heritage reduced the number of process steps to 32, and nine weeks were slashed out of the process, which can now be completed in 3-4 weeks. Costs have also been reduced: by $541,000 per year. Overall process quality is up by the targeted 10-15 per cent, says Ashton.

According to Stefanie Couture, a senior consultant with Systemscope, there are four steps in the service improvement lifecycle:

  • Current state – demands a clear understanding of who your clients are and what exactly it is you do for them.
  • Client preference – What do your clients actually want from you. This may be different from staff perceptions.
  • Process mapping – design the program that is going to deliver the service set goals.
  • Desired state – the final system that will deliver what the set goals required by the customer.

The CMT was the key element in accomplishing step two. A questionnaire developed by the Institute for Citizen Centered Service in 1998, the CMT is a consistent set of 100 questions that cover all aspects of service delivery. There is a core set of 10 questions that must be included, but beyond that, additional questions can be included to customize the CMT and garner results specific to the nature of the service provided.

The key principle is to foster a client-centric approach by evaluating client needs, expectations and priorities, said Ashton. “In the case of CAVCO we discovered they were very Internet savvy and wanted to use the Internet for service delivery.”

The CMT demonstrated that 91 per cent of CAVCO members were using the phone to deal with Canadian Heritage – fully 10 per cent more than the already high 81 per cent that was the internal perception. The CMT also established that 91 per cent of CAVCO members wanted to do all applications online and reduce the amount of time they were spending on the phone.

“The best thing about the CMT is that we are able to benchmark,” said Ashton. “It is consistent data and comparable across departments. It also allows the clients to speak for themselves and enables us to tailor solution aimed at delivering what the client actually wants, rather than what internal staff assumes he wants.”

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