Promises, pledges and satisfaction

One of my regular correspondents, even if he doesn’t respond on the blog, is Angus Doulton of EiP, who I am presenting with at their annual conference in November.

Angus had been considering my conference paper and was criticising my proposal about using ‘satisfaction’ as a measure! I admitted that I had come to agree with that – its use for things like the Place survey had reduced any value it once had, citizens probably provide the quality of their last experience with the organization as a value, not an average figure or something of use!

A very current paper by Oliver James of the University of Exeter entitled “Evaluating the Expectations Disconfirmationand Expectations Anchoring Approaches to Citizen Satisfaction with Local Public Services’ supports this approach. Moving on from the classic work by Parasuraman et al and also Van Ryzin’s practical testing of it, James’ conclusion is that managing expectations and perceived outcomes is very important. He also reflects upon the binary measures of dissatisfaction and satisfaction.

Hence, perhaps slightly in parallel with Angus, I am getting a stronger perception that the value comes in collating dissatisfaction and measuring it as a binary by channel to consider channel use, migration and transfer. We need to have anchored expectations and determine what the gap is between that and what is delivered, these should be the variations that flag up when service improvement is required.

Vanguard (John Seddon and associates) in their latest report on National Indicator 14 (avoidable contact) make the statement that “managing value is the key to removing failure and that in managing value you need measures that relate to purpose from the customers’ point of view.”

Angus himself has proffered ‘service promises’ as a solution, which seems, coincidentally, to reflect a proposal in the new future of policing Green Paper about a policing pledge! These are not too far away the anchored expectations gap, the question is: what do we use for the actual metric for the range of services and channels, can promises or pledges be set for them all, or do we seek out dissatisfaction and cure it?

At the EiP conference we will be trying to clarify potential measures derived from promises and pledges and produce something of use to practitioners and of value to the citizen.

James, O. (2007). “Evaluating the Expectations Disconfirmation and Expectations Anchoring Approaches to Citizen Satisfaction with LocalPublic Services.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory: 1 – 17.

Van Ryzin, G. G., Immerwahr, S., (2007). “Importance-Performance Analysis of Citizen Satisfaction Surveys.” Public Administration 85(1): 215 – 226.

Parasuraman, A., Zeithaml, V.A., Berry, L.L., (1988). “SERVQUAL: A multiple-item scale for measuring consumer perceptions of service quality.” Journal of Retailing 64(1 Spring): 12-40.


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