There are a number of reasons why it is important to measure the experience of people using a service:
- As an engagement and information collection tool, measuring experience and satisfaction provides service delivery organisations with a structured means of collecting information from service users to better infuse the needs and values of the people using a service into their organisation.
- As a service improvement tool, measuring experience and satisfaction provides a means of assessing what the main drivers of satisfaction or dissatisfaction are and focusing efforts on improving experience as part of an ongoing cycle of service improvement.
- As a performance management tool, measuring people’s experience and satisfaction provides a means of meeting reporting requirements for funding, demonstrating effectiveness when tendering for new funding opportunities and providing potential service users with information about performance.
Engagement and empowerment tool
Measuring the experience of people who use your services can provide a structured means of engaging with and collecting information from them, which can be used to infuse their voice within a service. As Rapp and Poertner (1987) have argued, a key challenge for services is adopting a more user-centred approach to service delivery (i). Seeking input and ideas from people using your service creates a more user-centred intervention (ii). Looking at their experience focuses an organisation on the needs of the people it serves to better position them at the centre of the service delivery experience.
In this regard, processes to measure user experience are not just about gaining information from people who use your service, they can also be an effective tool to promote client empowerment (iii). Empowerment is particularly important for parents and children marginalised as a result of statutory interventions, such as those associated with child protection. Processes that empower parents to participate in the planning, delivery and evaluation of family preservation programs, for example, serve to enhance the strengths and competencies of parents (iv).
The literature on client satisfaction measurement emerging from the United Kingdom Government, for example, views it as a means of focusing on the person and their experience (v). As such, the process of can be viewed as a method for reflecting upon the needs of the person.
While service delivery involves intensive interaction with service users on a daily basis this does not mean that information about their needs and values are automatically absorbed into the service operation and culture. Satisfaction measurement provides a structured tool for actively engaging with people who use your service; seeking out information about how they view the services being offered to them; and enabling them to have input into the delivery of these services. This includes their involvement in the process of designing the methods used and the questions asked to elicit information from people using your service.
Service improvement tool
Organisations armed with the right information can use it to better target services to their clients’ needs or better manage expectation by improving the way program benefits are communicated. This information also allows services to improve those aspects of service delivery which are most important to people who use services (vi), focusing time and resources more effectively.
It is important to note that the measurement of the person’s experience and satisfaction is not the same as measuring overall service quality but one distinct part of an integrated framework for analysing service quality and efficacy.
A broader quality improvement framework would likely include methods and processes to measure unmet service demand, user outcomes, evaluation of external programs impacting on users and support for continuous quality improvement (vii). It is critical to take steps to develop an action plan that guides the process of service improvement ensuring the information gathered from people using the service is actually put to use. As a cycle this process would be repeated to learn the impact that improvements have on satisfaction and to continue the service improvement process over time.
Performance management tool
Aside from providing a structured tool for engagement and information gathering and acting as part of the process to promote service improvement, measuring the experience of people using your services is also a useful tool for performance management. It provides a method for collecting useful data that can be used to meet contract reporting and accountability requirements, provide people with information about service performance, create opportunities to compare and contrast performance and demonstrate effectiveness when tendering for new funding.
(v) HM Government 2007. Promoting Customer Satisfaction: Guidance on improving the customer experience in Public Services.
(vi) HM Government 2007. How to measure customer satisfaction: A tool to improve the experience of customers.
(vii) Australian Federation of Homelessness Organisations. 2003. Measurement of Client Satisfaction in the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP).