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Effective customer relations in the government sector
The dichotomy of government-citizen interaction stems from two opposing roles assigned to each department of the Permanent Executive. On the one hand, each government field office plays the service delivery role, while on the other hand the same office plays the reverse regulatory role. In order to fully understand this, let us take the example of the office of the Patwari or Village Revenue Officer. A Patwari provides many services to citizens such as certified copies of land records, field reports needed to obtain various certificates from relevant authorities, etc. At the same time, the Patwari is responsible for checking encroachment on government lands and is required to report the same to his superiors. Similarly, officers of the municipal body are responsible for providing a “certificate of no objection” for electricity and water connections and at the same time are required to take action in the event of violation of regulations. of town planning by the citizens. Even a largely regulatory service such as the state police acts as a service provider in areas such as women’s safety, traffic management, etc.
The regulatory role of government offices ensures the rule of law, while the quality of service delivery shapes public perception of government performance and responsiveness to its citizens.
The quality of service delivery has been significantly improved in recent years, directly through laws such as the Public Service Guarantee Act and indirectly through other laws such as the Right to Information Act. There are two equally important aspects of service delivery. The first being service exit and the other no less important being client relationship. Unfortunately, service output in the offices is penalized by the generally unsatisfactory state of the administrative apparatus. However, the lack of efficiency client relationship is more attributable to the feudal mindset of individual civil servants and a misguided self-image of the government sector as an important regulator, rather than a service provider.
Successful experiences such as the management of passport offices by the TCS provide government clients, ie citizens, with a reason to support the privatization of this very important function of government.
The art of an effective customer relationship has been effectively honed by the private sector for decades, while in recent years few government departments, e.g. passport offices, have improved customer relations and service delivery by outsourcing services to private companies such as Tata Consultancy Services. Successful experiences such as the management of passport offices by the TCS provide government clients, ie citizens, with a reason to support the privatization of this very important function of government. While this can be a cost-effective way of dealing with the problem of customer relations, it also jeopardizes two important related issues. First, it threatens the very survival of a large percentage of public employment in the near future. Second, whatever its financial benefit to the treasury, it makes end services more expensive for the ordinary and poor citizen, as the Passport Office model has proven. Hence the concrete and urgent need to direct State services towards effective customer relationships.
It may be difficult to strike a balance in favor of client relationship by a single person responsible for both public services and regulation. For example, a non-commissioned officer (civilian) may not be taken seriously by some people in his duties as a magistrate, if he is too friendly and courteous to citizens who apply for driver’s licenses at the office. However, various employees of a district magistrate’s office can easily combine their efforts to collectively present the picture of a successful customer relationship strategy. Although this technique has been mentioned here in two short lines, the overall objective of effective customer relations in any office would require diligent planning and execution. That being said, courtesy and a positive communication attitude will always remain the basic tenants of effective customer relationships. In the case of a Subdivision Magistrate, the basic courtesy of offering a chair to a citizen entering his office will establish a practice of effective customer relations, without compromising his effectiveness as a magistrate or tax collector. While it may be more difficult to balance role swapping for a one-man office, like the Patwari’s, there can be no excuse for a multi-person office, not having high standards of effective public relations.
Another role of each State agent apart from The Regulator and the Service providerwhich was not mentioned in the first paragraph, is that as Team member aimed at achieving organizational goals. In this role, each civil servant is helpful towards his superiors and courteous towards his colleagues. Therefore, no public servant is oblivious to the practice of courtesy in their day-to-day interactions. Why then, shouldn’t this courtesy be extended to ordinary taxpayers? The answer to this question should automatically motivate all administrators, whether from departmental services or administrative services, to initiate processes and practices of effective customer relations in their offices. At Government level, a well-thought-out policy of effective customer relations may be considered, which may include formal training regarding the strategy and practices of effective customer relations. This would be the next natural step in the line of administrative reforms.