How Long Should a Constituent Wait for Service from Your Agency? The Use of Service Level Targets Can Help Answer That Question
Setting realistic expectations for the delivery of services to your constituents can be a tricky proposition. If your agency makes promises that they simply cannot keep, your constituents will become frustrated from a perceived lack of service, and your agency staff will always be in a frantic state trying to meet goals that can’t be met. If, on the other hand, your agency has no set of timelines or promises for service delivery, there is a huge risk for a mismatch between what your constituents expect and when your agency will actually deliver.
When we work with our customers to start down the road of establishing goals for the delivery of specific services, we always warn of the potential political minefields that lay ahead— especially for agencies or departments that have never had documented targets for service delivery before. What we cannot do is make decisions that are arbitrary, too simplistic and not based on facts on the ground. Targets such as “Answer all calls in 30 seconds” or “Resolve all constituent requests in 24 hours” sound great, but simply may not be realistic with the number of staff on hand or the complexity of the requests that come in.
The establishment of published service level targets is a fantastic goal for any agency or department, and our consultants at Cask always recommend that the following criteria be taken into consideration when attempting to define them:
What services does your agency provide? List them out and describe them in detail.
What steps are taken to fulfill the delivery of those services? For example, if your agency is in charge of filling potholes, lay out the steps taken from the first report all the way through opening the lane to traffic once again.
Staying with the pothole example, begin adding up the time needed to complete each step of the process. How long does it take to initially respond to a pothole complaint? How long does it take to send an engineer to evaluate the situation? How long does it typically take to dispatch the road crew to fill the pothole?
Use any available prior metrics to gauge how quickly this work has been done in the past, and use it as a guide for your new documented targets. Try to collect at least 3 months of data at a minimum.
Once you’re comfortable with setting realistic targets for the delivery of a particular service, make a concerted effort to share that with your constituents