Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Service Standards

A large part of the work handled by Equity can be regarded as customer service. Negotiating an agreement only takes up a few months, once every three years. However, the administration of it happens dozens of times each day, year-round, every year. The Association also handles dues and financial benefits on behalf of its members, including insurance and and RRSP services. In addition, we regularly connect up with theatres, as thousands of contracts are arranged.

All these activities, and more, involve numerous member and engager interactions, some very brief and some quite extended. Four years ago, Council implemented policy to ensure that customer service of this sort met basic privacy and accessibility requirements.

At its meeting in August, and based on member feedback, Council voted to take that policy a step further: implementing published service standards.

It's worth having some sense of the context in which this change has been made. Based on the latest annual data from the office, the Business Rep department alone:
  • reviews nearly 14,000 contracts for over 2,000 productions
  • receives and sends over 12,000 emails
  • spends around 450 hours on the phone 
The overwhelming majority of these interactions are positive and productive. But when one occurs that is not, that's when Councillors hear about it. And that's when the local CPAG members hear about it. And that's when everyone else in the green room hears about it. A single bad experience can echo so far and for so long, that it ends up sounding like a chorus of common occurrence.

It isn't. Weeding out duplicate reports and retelling by others, complaints turn out to be comparatively few in number. In the first year of last term, I put my email address absolutely everywhere, and when I got my first customer service complaint, I started a special email folder for those. I just looked: four years now and they average three per year.

I'll be the first to say it: a couple of the complaints were quite troubling, and on several others we could definitely have done better. There are unquestionably some complaints that didn't make it to me, and there are almost certainly several that didn't make it beyond the green room. However, considered in the context of many thousands of interactions per year, and thousands of members and engagers, a handful per year is a pretty good average.

Council is interested in improving that average. We recognise that, while the typical number of customer service issues is very small, a single customer service problem can be a real show-stopper – pun fully intended.

In the next few months, Equity will implement formal, published standards in the areas of timelines for response to communication, timelines for provision of services, knowledgeable response to inquiry, and courteous treatment. Most complaints centre on one or another of these four issues.

We know that in most cases these standards will be redundant, as they are already being handily met. But by publishing them, the Association makes an unequivocal statement of the level of service which members and others have a right to expect in their dealings with us. They provide the organisation itself with a benchmark for its work, and if we should fail to meet the standard, provide the member or other person with an obvious metric for expressing their dissatisfaction.

The policy change to implement the standards was passed at the most recent meeting. The service standards themselves have yet to be finalised, but they will be published both here and on the main website when they are.

Council knows better than to believe that Equity will never muck up — we're all human too. However, we want to ensure that those occurrences continue to be rare, that we are fully prepared to acknowledge them should they occur, and that we will take every opportunity to learn from mistakes.

As always, we welcome your comment.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please include your name. Comments may be reviewed before appearing, and may be withheld or removed at the administrator's discretion.