The Ombudsman redresses grievances arising from maladministration in public organisations and promotes fairness and a high standard of service in public administration. This Office's Administrative Fairness Checklist provides a rational basis for assessing standards of fairness and reasonableness in public administration while its Administrative Ethics Checklist provides general guidance for public officers on good administrative ethical practices conducive to the best performance of their public duties.

Public organisations exist to provide services to the community. Upholding good customer service is a keynote to improving the quality, standard and image of their services, as prominently featured in the objectives, missions and performance pledges of most public organisations.

It is believed that many complaints against public organisations could have been avoided had the services been delivered with the conviction of providing a good customer service right from the start. Achieving this goal is of course no easy task given rising public expectations and a fast developing service culture. To help public organisations in achieving better service delivery, The Ombudsman has developed this Guide to Good Standards of Customer Service as a reference for public officers. Although the Guide is by no means exhaustive, it provides a useful reference for public officers on how they can best serve the community by delivering their services to customers in line with the objectives and missions of their organisations in a responsible, reasonable, fair, impartial and positive manner.

Serving your customers in a "responsible" manner means dealing with them -

promptly, without undue delay and in observance of the organisation's mission, objectives and performance pledges.
correctly, in accordance with the law or other rules governing their circumstances.
carefully, by considering all relevant and material facts and factors in the decision making process.
sensibly, by maintaining a proper balance between the adverse effect of your decision on the legitimate rights and interests of the affected persons and the purpose being pursued by taking that decision, in particular where discretionary power is to be exercised.

Serving your customers in a "reasonable" manner means -

treating your customers with respect.
showing empathy to your customers, listening to them, and understanding their legitimate needs and concerns, giving due consideration to their age, ability to understand complex issues, any physical or mental disabilities, feelings, privacy and convenience.
seeing to it that your decisions can stand the test of fundamental reasoning and common sense.
helping your customers by simplifying procedures, forms, providing clear and precise information on the scope and limit of your services and referring cases to the appropriate authorities if necessary.

Serving your customers in a "fair" manner means -

treating people in similar circumstances in a like and consistent manner.
giving reasons for your decisions and explaining the likely effects on your customers.
keeping your customers informed about the progress of matters of their concern.
informing your customers of any available appeal or complaint channel in respect of your decisions or actions.
handling such appeals or complaints cautiously, sympathetically and with an open mind.
avoiding creation of inequity through rigid application of rules and regulations where certain degree of flexibility can be exercised.
changing rules and procedures as and when warranted to keep abreast of changes in circumstances.
consulting the persons likely to be affected by any change in the rules and procedures or their representatives and giving them adequate notice before changing any rules and procedures.
having an internal review system so that adverse decisions can be re-examined by someone not involved in the initial decision making process.

Serving your customers in an "impartial" manner means -

making decisions based on relevant rules and laws and not on arbitrariness or personal preferences.
avoiding bias by reasons of a person's race, sex, age, marital status, health, physical appearance, ethnic origin, culture, language, religion, sexual orientation, reputation, social status, political inclinations or personal affections, affiliations or prejudice.
ensuring priorities are accorded fairly, consistently and with a high degree of transparency.

Serving your customers in a "positive" manner means -

avoiding adoption of an adversarial approach when faced with the likelihood of litigation;
admitting and correcting mistakes and offering apologies when it is appropriate to do so.
taking the initiative to offer assistance to your customers when they are not clear about the proper procedures, services available or units responsible.
putting in place adequate complaint channels and developing effective complaint handling procedures and informing your customers accordingly when situation warrants.
taking complaints as opportunities to improve the service of the organisation and using complaints as a management tool to monitor the standards of service and changing customer expectations.



Striving For Continuous Improvements To Your Service