Article – Profiling Home Affairs
Recently, returning home from a trip abroad I was dismayed to see the queues for immigration stretching back into the arrivals hall, on inspecting the various lines I saw the one for citizens was moving rapidly with hardly any delays. With my passport in hand I quickly made it through the throng of people, when I reached the desk the official waved me through in seconds calling me by name, because I was a citizen of the country! For me this is what Home Affairs is all about validating my identity, allowing me to go about my business without let or hindrance. Home Affairs also touches me at those key turbulent points in my life namely, births, marriage and deaths. This is probably why the customer service performance of Home Affairs resonates so strongly with us, because we need their service at particularly stressful times in our lives. We have all heard in the media how Home Affairs is making great strides in customer service but are these improvements happening uniformly across the service? The message coming out from the 2014, first multi-industry nationwide customer service survey, is definitely, no. This survey collected over 7000 responses on customer service in Namibia, covering 12 industry sectors from Home Affairs to banks, making it the most comprehensive survey on customer service in Namibia and probably Africa.
The survey undertaken by the Harold Pupkewitz Graduate School of Business in the Polytechnic of Namibia collected 342 responses on Home Affairs grouping the results by regional office, from these offices the following are the finalists that will be represented at the Awards ceremony on the 5th November at the Polytechnic’s new Health & Applied Sciences Building in Windhoek. Offices will be competing for the Home Affairs Customer Service Excellence Award. They are Rundu, Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, Windhoek Central and Northern Industrial.
Overall the industry received a good rating from customers unfortunately there were wide disparities between the best performing office and the worst. The main service drivers for the nm,./industry are in first place the ability to the service to recover from failures, responsiveness[SV1] of the service to the needs to the customer, reliability of the service that is the extent to which the service is delivered consistently without fail, credibility of the service meaning the Home Affairs office is trustworthy and honest and finally, tangibles of the service that is the appearance of the service fixtures and fittings. Identifying these service drivers provide Home Affairs with insight into what customers are looking for from their service encounter with each office. It guides them where to spend time and resources in training to obtain the maximum return on their investment. A customer’s perception of service quality may vary for many reasons, but the factors that shape those perceptions will remain remarkably constant.
Focusing on the key drivers we are surprised to see recovery as the most important of them, this tells us that generally Home Affairs offices are still operating in error correction or recovery mode and not with stable processes that produce expected results. When a service operates in recovery mode, the service relies on ‘heroic’ employees to function. These people become the point of reference for customers, who do not trust the service but only those heroic employees who can get things done. In this example Windhoek Central one of the better performers scored a mere 52% with customers noting that the office barely shows any interest in complaints or problems raised by customers. The next key attribute in order of priority is responsiveness which exhibited a similar wide range of ratings. Most notably is the low rating of 26% achieved by the Rundu office, again customers noting that staff are often too busy to respond to customer queries or to provide assistance. The Windhoek Northern Industrial office scored 70% for reliability of the service with customers noting that there is a general insistence on the accuracy of documentation both issued and received. The Walvis Bay office rated a high 79% for credibility of the service with customers noting that the service seemed to be designed and operated with their interest being uppermost. Finally, for tangibles the Swakopmund office rated 81% with the use of modern technology dominating customer perceptions.
What are we to make of these results? Clearly Home Affairs need to continue with their service improvement programme. For a number of offices there needs to be clarity about the services being offered to customers with proper workflow processes designed with the customer in mind. This will reduce the reliance on the need for heroic staff and service recovery mechanisms to get the job done. However, for now, the question is which Home Affairs office will walk away with the award for best customer service in this industry? To find out you will have to attend the awards ceremony on the 5th November. Tickets can be bought by contacting Conference Link on (061 251 014) or through the website www.csmafrica.org.
To book seats for the first Namibian Customer Service Conference, Awards or Master Class or to purchase a Customer Service Industry Report call or email Conference Link on (061 251 014) or email@example.com or register through our website at www.csmafrica.org.
Professor Grafton Whyte
Director – Harold Pupkewitz GSB