Public sector must treat citizens as valued customers

Thursday, October 24th, 2019 07:36 |
KRA headquarters. Photo/File

By Grace Wandera       

  Customer satisfaction is a significant fulcrum in the running of any organisation

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 that defines a customer. The basic dictionary definition of the word customer refers to a party that buys goods or services.

As a result, the term 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 thinktanks 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 customers, the sector’s customer satisfaction levels have been commendably high. Various studies touching on customer satisfaction indicate the levels are higher in the private sector than the public sector. 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. 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-oriented in the dispensation of their mandates.

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has been on the frontline 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 taxation has never been a choice, to KRA, the taxpayer (customer) is still king. This is in full cognisance of the crucial role this customer plays in building the nation. 

Leverage on technological advancement and modern means of communication have significantly pivoted KRA’s transformation into a more customer-focused State agency. To effectively serve customers and meet their needs, KRA has implemented a state-of-the-art customer engagement solution—the Customer Relationship Management (CRM). This gives KRA a 360-degree view of customers engaging with the authority across all channels of communication. 

However, one might argue that employment of technological advancement only improves performance of a system, which in turn begs the question; does enhanced performance automatically translate to customer satisfaction? According to a 2017 article by Deloitte-US 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. 

Even with the technology in place, the human resource element plays a crucial role in customer satisfaction. In light of this, KRA has also reskilled the frontline 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. These factors, coupled with others, have seen KRA’s customer experience satisfaction index maintain an upward trajectory. 

Customer satisfaction is a significant fulcrum in the running of any business, whether profit-making or utumishi kwa uma in the public sector. Just like any other business strategy, sustenance of customer satisfaction is critical to any organisation. 

One way through which KRA has over the years sustained customer satisfaction is by celebrating taxpayers through what started as the taxpayers’ week to what is now a month of initiatives marked every October. The initiative has gone a long way to demystify KRA as well as improve the agency’s relationship with taxpayers. The culmination of the taxpayers’ month is a presidential luncheon where outstanding taxpayers get special recognition and rewards.

The public sector should change its perception towards service seekers and regard them as valuable customers.

—The writer is the head of Marketing and Communication Department at KRA

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