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Citizen Service Centres (KEP): Perceptions of Customers

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Published: Tue, 20 Feb 2018

1. Introduction

1.1 Importance of the Research

According to the philosophical bases of marketing customer wants satisfaction. As the consumer is the key for a firm, the voter is the central element for a government or party (Lock and Harri,1996).In this context the citizen – voter wants satisfaction and searching his satisfaction from the services that are offered to him is ‘‘ a lens through which government and public managers can gain a better perspective on how citizens respond to the performance of public services”, (Van Ryzin , 2004) and offers important findings for the policy makers.

Citizen satisfaction surveys are frequently used by U.S. local governments and public administration researchers in order to measure the quality of local government services (Hatry et al., 1992; Miller and Kobayashi, 2000). A big number of U.S. cities use surveys regularly (New York , San Francisco, Phoenix etc.),in order to analyze in a descriptive and unvaried way , the level of perceived quality of services ,within a locality and over time (Van Ryzin et al., 2004).

Recent studies have compared citizen satisfaction with benchmarks that were developed from data collected across many localities (Miller and Miller 1991; Miller and Kobayashi 2000), and have focused on the individual, jurisdictional, and city-specific determinants of citizen ratings of service quality (De Hoog, Lowery, and Lyons 1990; Hero and Durand 1985),like taxes and expenditure ,and also on demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of respondents such as race (Schuman and Gruenberg, 1972).

Other investigations have negotiated the citizen satisfaction from the police according to their ethnoracial characteristics (Brad W. S. 2005), or satisfaction from the education system or from hospitals (Amyx,Bristow ,2001, Suda Anita D.,1998).

The importance of the public services quality became popular in the United Kingdom at 1990s when the political parties put an emphasis on the subject ,but even in our days the need for quality services that meet “customer” – citizens needs and expectations, is more and more obvious .This need for quality public services is even expressed by the European Social Fund, as the implementation of the strategy and policies of the European Committee at Member States ,is strongly related with the public service organizations, which many of them are responsible for (ESF,2009).

And although, in the marketing research exist a number of well-developed models of approaching customer satisfaction, there has been little development of a model that would test citizens satisfaction.

As a result, it would be valuable to test such a model in the framework of Greek public services.

1.2 The Research Objectives

The overall objective of this research is to examine the Greek citizens perceptions and expectations of service quality concerning the Citizen Service Centres (KEP) -a Greek public service – based on servqual model. From this overall objective a number of more specific aims can be identified:

  • Investigate consumer expectations towards the service offered from public services
  • Examine citizen perceptions about Citizen Service Centres(KEP)
  • Asses the factors that play an important role in the service quality of Citizen Service Centres (KEP)

2. Literature Review

2.1 Politics and the marketing concept

It has often been argued that the application of ‘marketing’ tools and instruments in politics is nothing new (Perloff, 1999; Baines and Egan, 2001).In the last twenty-five years what have changed about the political marketing is not just the size of political marketing management but also the belief that political actors act and think in political terms. Political actors are them that they try to do marketing management in a frame of integration of marketing instruments in a coherent marketing strategy (Newman, 1994a; Dermody and Scullion, 2001).

It is supposed that the selling of politicians and the selling of a product is linked (O’Shaughnessy, 2001) and that commercial and political contexts are essentially similar (Kotler, 1999).

Many marketers believe that the tools and concepts of marketing can be transferred directly to the political arena (Lock and Harris ,1996) .The applications of political marketing are used as a tool of managing politics, developing policy (Nimmo, 1999), or even governing (O’Shaughnessy, 2003).

The marketing concept in commercial terms is based on the principle that all company planning and operations will be customer oriented. As such the philosophical basis of the marketing concept is that customer want satisfaction (O’Cass, 1996).

When a political party or candidate applies this concept to the political process, they must be in a position to adapt to and satisfy voters’ needs (Mauser, 1983; Newman and Sheth, 1987; Reid, 1988).

For major mainstream parties, the overriding objective is to attract voters, win elections and hold power (Lock and Harris, 1996).In this extent knowing the degree of satisfaction of citizens seems to be important.

2.2 Citizen

Citizen is every person of a state that has the citizenship of it (New Encyclopaedia, 2006).

According the place and the time different criteria were used to define the citizen .The genealogical criterion, which is the oldest, the legal criterion and the economic (taxation) criterion .According to the first, citizen is the son of citizen that hasn’t lost his rights. This definition was used in the ancient cities in order to distinguish the mass from the public.

According to the second criterion citizen is each one that is recognized like that from the law. And finally, according to the last , citizen is each one that owns property or a quantity of goods and contributes to the governmental budget (Encyclopaedia Papyrus Larousse Britannica, 1992).Citizens have some rights and obligations .Their rights are political such as the right to vote, to be member of the jury or public servant , and personal such as the right to live ,to have free speech , to work, to live in freedom ,etc . ,that are protected from the state and are given to everyone.

Citizens’ obligations such as taxation are set in order to protect the privileges that are offered to citizens from the government and they emerge from the need of the State’s existence (New Encyclopaedia, 2006). One of the governmental works is the provision of goods and services. All the modern governments take part directly to the economy by providing goods and services , organising industrial enterprises I promoting economic activities .Providing sanitary, education, and social insurance services , is one of the modern state’s concerns (Heinz Eulau ,1992).

2.3 Citizens as Customers, Customers as Citizens

The classic definition of customer is “one who purchases or receives a product or service” (Carlson, 1997).

The concept of customer is often more complicated in the public sector. For example, the city of Coral Springs in Florida, refined the idea by considering two distinct categories of external customers. Moreover, a building permit applicant is a direct customer while the applicant’s neighbors are among the indirect customers who will benefit if the decision helps to ensure a safer city and more appropriate land use and construction practices. But even with these refinements, “citizen” sometimes has a broader meaning. Citizens enjoy rights and take on responsibilities that extend well beyond those commonly recognized to customers (Popovich, 1999).

Despite the passage of generations, the fact that government cannot succeed without the people’s trust and support, is a true even today.

These essential elements of civil society shape the capacity and help determine the actual performance of government. Society’s efforts to accomplish its highest priority and most practical goals are likely to fall short in the absence of the people’s agreement in the functions of government. As the customer is the key for a firm, the citizen -voter is the central element for a government.

2.4 Public services

A service is a non material product (education, health safety etc).The meaning of public services isn’t constrained in the area of Public and Αdministrative law .The public service is a known significance in the economy, as an appropriate tool of the state’s expansion in the social relations, for the preservation of stabilized provisions for the welfare state. Beyond the needs of the of practical policy, the interest of the political science with the expansions of the political philosophy is expressed , as the public service is characterized as the expansion of the state in it’s social activity . In other words , it is the way by which the state contacts the citizens in order to cover their direct needs .After the two World Wars this phenomenon is observed in the European area .In Germany , this works as ‘‘Anstalten ”(institutions) and the ‘‘ offentlichen Unternehmungen” (public enterprises) . The administration (the welfare state) undertakes and guarantees benefits even for the preservation of life of human who live massively in big cities such as transportation ,cleanliness , water , electricity etc.

Τhe principles of function of the public services are connected with the needs and social aims that are tended to fulfil. Therefore, services are provided to everyone in the same way in order to cover the needs, under conditions that change from time to time (Encyclopaedia Papyrus Larousse Britannica ,1992 ).

According to the Europa Glossary that is being updated given the recent signing of the Treaty of Lisbon ,the concept of public service is <>.

At the same time the Europa Glossary defines that<< the idea behind a public service charter is that there should be an instrument, setting out the basic rights and principles governing the provision of services to users. Such principles would include:

  • continuity of service
  • quality
  • security of supply
  • equal access
  • affordable prices
  • social , cultural and environmental acceptability

Article 16 of the EC Treaty, introduced by the Treaty of Amsterdam, confirms the role of public services in the European Union. The EU policy on operators of public services is still shaped by the desire to liberalise network public services and to widen the scope of competition on national markets, be this, in the areas of rail transport, postal services, energy or telecommunications>>.

2.5 Citizen Service Centres (KEP)

The institution of KEP was founded in 2002, based on an idea of the Deputy Minister Mr Beno.

The KEP were founded according to the article 31 of law 3013/2002 and were staffed with short term labour agreement workers, according to the processes of article 6 of law 2527/1997.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (2007), over 60.000 of citizens visit every day Citizen Service Centres (KEP) for certified or not processes, ratifications of registrations, certifications of genuine signature and every kind of administrative information. The last three years 40 new KEP were founded and now they are 1035 at their total.

The centres are open Monday to Friday, 8:00 to 20:00, and Saturday, 8:00 to 14:00.

At Citizen Service Centres (KEP) citizens can:

· obtain information on what they need to do in order to manage their transactions with the municipality

* submit applications for the processing of matters that involve the City that the KEP is registered and state agencies in accordance with joint decisions issued by the Interior Minister or other competent Minister

<>(City of Athens ,2007).

Some of the procedures (about 1.014 at total) that Citizens can carry out at Citizen Service Centres are the following:

· The registration or transfer of registration of a passenger vehicle or motorcycle

· The issuance of a birth certificate duplicate

· The issuance of a criminal record duplicate for general or legal use

· The issuance of a marital status certificate

· The issuance of a birth certificate duplicate for those registered with the City of Athens

· The application for a rent subsidy for the year 2006 to Workers’ Housing Organisation beneficiaries (former recipients)

· The issuance of a registry birth certificate duplicate for an adult or minor

· The issuance of a public transport pass for individuals with disabilities

· The application for the seasonal unemployment benefit in accordance with Article 22 of Law

1836/89 – OAED (Greek Manpower Employment Organisation)

· The issuance of a marital status certificate for individuals registered with the City of Athens (online)

· The application for a rent subsidy for the year 2006 to Workers’ Housing Organization beneficiaries (new recipients)

· The issuance of a marriage license duplicate

· The application for the OAED (Greek Manpower Employment Organization) family subsidy

· The issuance of a drivers’ license

· The issuance of a Type A military status certificate (full)

· The renewal of a drivers’ license

· The issuance of a registry death certificate duplicate

· The application for change in passenger vehicle or motorcycle ownership

· The issuance of a permanent residence certificate

· The issuance of a judicial interdiction certificate

See Appendix 1

Progressively KEP were transformed to Centres of Completed Transactions, bringing the Public Administration more near to citizen. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (2007), citizens trust KEP and are in general satisfied from them. Nowadays they have permanent staff which possesses about 2588 positions.

The number of affairs that KEP handled the last years is presented at the table below:

PERIOD

NUMBER OF AFFAIRS

SERVED CITIZENS

2006

3.042.509

1.154.554

2005

2.305.195

1.527.516

2004

1.643.313

1.316.505

2003

423.759

356.872

Medium number of affairs per day from Monday to Friday: 11.805

Medium number of affairs per day (Saturday): 821

According to the Ministry KEP are recognizable from about the 80% of citizens. Equally big are the visits to them that they exceed 60%, since they were enriched with new, more attractive for the citizen processes. But more interesting are the numbers linked with the subject of satisfaction of citizens, which according to the ministry exceeds the 90%.

The problems that the Public Administration was facing when KEP were created were multiple. The most serious of them were the bad organization and the centralism of public services, lack of confidence in the government owned services, lack of evaluation, lack of meritocracy, weakening of ASEP, fragmentary, and consequently unsuccessful, efforts of application of Electronic Governing, absence of controls and sanctions and finally inflation of bureaucracy and corruptness. For this reason in 2007 a number of regulations of the article 15 of the law for Citizen Service Centres (KEP) were introduced, in order to fight the difficulties and dysfunctions of citizen’s service (Ministry of Internal Affairs, 2007).

Some of the regulations were the following:

· The foundation of the Direction of Organization and Operation of KEP in the General Secretariat of Public Administration and Electronic Governing. The Direction was founded in order to guarantee the proper operation of KEP, but also their evolution in Centres of Completed Administrative Transactions, and the resolution of problems that emerges, because of their big number, the crowd of subjects and processes that they realize and the recent enlargement of their competences. The monitoring and the co-ordination of the operation of KEP is practiced , up today, at fragmentary way from the existing Direction of General Secretariat of Public Administration and Electronic Governing, fact which creates difficulties as far as it concerns the united confrontation of problems.

· The regulation of subjects of mobility of permanent personnel. The employees will stay in the KEP of their placement, for at least a five-year period, so that the experience, which has been acquired in the particular KEP, not to get lost.

· The simplification and acceleration of processes

· The restriction of joint responsibilities between the Ministries. It is indicatively reported that Minister of Internal Affairs does not act jointly in more than 25 different regulatory actions

· The obligatory deadline of 50 days for the transaction of the affairs of citizens

· The payment of complete compensation in the citizen in case of delay

· The self appointed search of supporting documents from the service on behalf of the citizen. 208 certificates can be requested from the service without the citizens presence, for 18 of them the self appointed search is obligatory. Indicative is the progress that took place in the case of self appointed search of certificates of birth from KEP, where, while in 2005 they had 231.327 certificates and medium time of transaction the 8 days, in the end of 2006 the transaction reached 432.188 certificates, that is to say almost double, with medium time of transaction the 5 days. Same is the acceleration as far as it concerns the certificates of familial situation, where while in 2005 were published 253.071 certificates, in 2006 until 2007, 373.219 certificates have been published

· The suppression of submission of supporting documents and their replacement with a personal declaration form for 7 cases

· The videoconference of administrative bodies

· The generalization of electronic communication and exchange of documents between the services. The network “SIZEFKSIS” ensures 50.000 digital certificates (under form of card) in civil servants equal in number. With this way is provided the possibility of electronic distribution of document, with simultaneous place of signature on this, with electronic way, without a problem of genuineness, after the distribution becomes from the above permitted employees with the use of digital certificate of (card). This electronic distribution involves big acceleration of process of publication and mission of document and contributes considerably in the fighting of bureaucracy.

· The application of a plan of restriction of state expenses and the enlarged public sector, by reforming the public services, so that they become more functional and effective

· The promotion of a regulatory reform, with the establishment of rules of good legislation as well as a system of evaluation of the results of legislative regulations in the competitiveness and the entrepreneurship

The City of Athens operates a total of seven (7) Citizen Service Centres (KEP), one in each City District.

Citizen Service Centres provide an online service for Athens’ citizens with regards the following:

* City of Athens municipal roll certificates

* Permanent residence certificates

* Certification TAP property fee payment (in cases where agreement exists on the number of square metres registered with the Public Power Corporation and the contract of purchase)

The Citizens Helpline “1595” provides information on documents required for all procedures processed by Citizen Service Centres.

2.6 Service marketing

Usually marketing had been seen as having dual dimension.On the one hand, there is the notion which supports that the existence of an organization in economical and social content is based on the satisfaction of customer needs and wants, and on the other hand there is the “ set of activities ” which serve this philosophy in order to be implemented (Crompton&Lamb,1986).

The marketing of services is a sector with particular characteristics .The expenditure on services is growing in most industrialized economies. According to the European Commission , “the percentage share of gross domestic product attributable to the services sector rose from 38 per cent in 1970 to almost 50 percent by 1990”.

Crowell supports that “what is significant about services is the relative dominance of intangible attributes in the make up of the service product”.

Services as a special kind of product – usually they do not result in ownership but they can be linked to a physical good – require special treatment.

According to Jobber, as many offerings may combine tangible and intangible characteristics the distinction between them is <>.

For example, a marketing research study provides a physical good, which is the report that comes out, but also is the result of a number of service activities such as interviews with respondents, analysis of results, designing of the research, etc. Products such as a skirt or a pair of socks usually are not accompanied by a service so they can be characterised as pure goods, but also a visit to a doctor or psychotherapy can be regarded as a pure service as there is nothing tangible that the client receives.

2.6.1 THE NATURE OF SERVICES

Service characteristics can be summarised to the following four: intangibility, variability, perishability and inseparability.

2.6.1.1 Intangibility

As intangibility can be characterised the fact that services can’t be smelled, touched, tasted or seen. Service is “a deed, performance or effort and not an object device or thing” (Berry, 1980). In other words customer can’t evaluate a service before buying it and sometimes can’t evaluate it even after consuming it. For this reason the challenge for the service providers is to prove the quality of the service by communicating tangible benefits to consumers. Another characteristic of intangibility is the fact that the service can’t be owned so customers pay for the use of product or the performance.

2.6.1.2 Variability

The provision of service quality may vary depending to the person who provides it. In other words important factors are the capabilities the person has, his physical and mental situation (tiredness, attitude etc.) the location the service is provided .So, in order to control quality variation , methods such as evaluation systems , tight quality controls and service standardization methods are necessary (Jobber,2004).

2.6.1.3 Inseparability

In contrast with physical goods services can’t be stored in order to be used later. Services are characterised by the “simultaneous production and consumption.” Because of this characteristic service provider’s role is very important to the satisfaction of consumer, as many times he is supposed to be himself the company in the eyes of customer (Berry, 1980).

For this reason “the importance of service provider is an integral part of the satisfaction gained by the consumer”. The behaviour of the service provider is also important for the experience that the customer has for the provided service .So, great importance must be given to the training and rewarding of the staff and its selection (Aijo,1996).

Another element that is connected to inseparability is the fact that the customer may experience the service in combination with other customers because of the nature of the service and the place it is offered. At this case marketing managers should take into consideration the role of customer interactions between them, but also the inter customer conflicts and nuisance (Barron et al., 1996).

2.6.1.4 Perishability

Unlike the physical goods, services can’t be stored in order to be used in the future or at peak times. So service providers should take into consideration the combination of demand and supply and use methods such as multi-skilling of the staff in order to be used at peak seasons or part time employees, supply flexibility, differential pricing and reservation system in order to minimize time waiting (Jobber, 2004).

Today one of the greater challenges that the sector of services has to face is the increasing competition in combination with the growing expectations of customers and the developing demands of customers as service improves (Joseph & Walker, 1988).

2.6.2 SERVICE MARKETING MIX

Models had to explain the relationship between the market and the organisation in order to maximize the second’s performance (Gronrooss C, 1982).

To certain extent managing services are more complicated than managing products, as products can be standardised. The standardisation of a service is far more difficult as there are more input factors i.e. process, people, physical evidence, to manage than with a product.

The service marketing mix consists of the 7’P’s model. These include except from the classical 4 P’s that stands for: Product, Price, Place, Promotion, three more P’s which are People, Process and Physical evidence.

2.6.2.1 People

People participate and deliver the service experience, the efficiency and effectiveness, the availability and capability, the customer interaction and the internal marketing.

Any provision of service includes as an essential part the use of appropriate staff and people. In order to gain an organisation competitive advantage it is important that it recruits the right staff that is well trained in the delivery of service. Usually consumers’ perceptions and judgements are affected by the employees they interact with. Consumers wait from the staff to have the appropriate attitude, service knowledge and interpersonal skills that they are paying for. So many organisations train their staff to certain standards.

Physical Evidence

Physical evidence concerns the place where the service is delivered, infrastructure, facilities, surroundings, essential evidence and peripheral evidence ,equipment and premises. It is an element of the service mix that contributes to the formation of the opinion of the consumer about the organization .So the judgments and the perceptions of the consumers are formed by the sight of the service provision .For example if you walk in an office you expect a friendly environment neat and tie.

Process

The systems used to assist the organisation in delivering the service, constitute the process. So process refers to the operating process that takes the customer through ,from the initial contact till the service experience and evaluation , database management, service delivery, queuing systems, ordering ,standardization .The customer usually expects efficiency and quickness at the process of the service delivery and this fosters consumer’s loyalty and confidence in the organization.

2.6.3 Quality

Quality is important to business organisations and their consumers, because quality products or services can and will secure consumer’s business. In addition, linking quality with expensive spending is not absolute, as price will not determine always quality. The high or low quality of a product or service is usually determined, “by how it made the consumer feel and whether consumer expectations were satisfied or exceeded” (Kotler P. et al, 2008).

Quality was very popular in the marketing literature, « where the notion of satisfying the customer was a dominant model of quality of service provided and consumer satisfaction » (Raftopoulos V., 2005).

The US Strategic Planning Institute in 1972 developed the concept of relative perceived quality (RPQ), «that is the perception of quality as defined by customers, relative to the offerings of competitors. In other words quality is what a customer perceives it to be and this is a dynamic and complex notion. »

2.6.3.1 Public service quality

The need for quality public services is also expressed by the European Commission through the European Social Fund in its program for 2007-2013.The reason is that the quality of public services affects the implementation of policies and the strategy design as public sector organizations are responsible for them at a big degree at the Member States ,e.g. government ministries , local authority departments and special agencies (ESF,2009).

The fact of how important is the quality of public services and the need to be improved,

became popular, in Britain, at 1990’s when the Government gave clear <> on the subject, by the proposal of the Conservative Prime Minister John Major enclosed in his Citizen’s Charter White Paper (Prime Minister, 1991).

The issue faced great consensus from the political parties as the same year both Liberal and Labour parties published their own citizen charter proposals. The citizen driven improvement of the quality of public services was a fact (Black et al., 1994).

This policy which faced the citizen as user and needed the reporting of performance from the service providers was continued for a long period it was enriched with best value new policies and was popular as<< New Public Management>>.According to this concept public services is better to be managed than administrated (Black et al.,2001).

At the same time another reason that public service quality is important is that the needs and expectations of the users change and increase.

Service quality and how to measure it developed to be a critical issue ,so during the 1990s performance measurement techniques developed as a result of <>such as government legislation ,regulatory activity by industry “keepers” and major policy initiatives, as Black St. et al. , characterize them, and not as a result of the needs of the service provider.

Meanwhile , all the efforts of understanding and measuring public service quality where characterized as weak and an increasing interest for quality improvement models techniques , certification and awards developed .So a number of new significances appeared such as total quality management and continuous improvement, process mapping techniques, Institution Standards and Charters.

The revolution of the commercial service sector that took place the previous decades influenced also public sector organizations that faced the need to provide quality services that meet ‘customer’ needs and expectations.

As Wisniewski remarks, << Nowadays, for a variety of reasons, public sector services are striving to identify customer needs and to monitor customer perceptions of services provided >> (Wisniewski, 2001). The notion of treating the customers has started to change as they don’t receive passively uniform services without their voice or influence being considered (Skelcher, 1992). At the opposite side, the adoption of traditional methods may lead to the delivery of a service distant from customer needs.

So organizations many times, after a more profound search, discover that the needs and values of customers are different from what they assume before searching (Farquhar C.R. ,1993).

In order to discover customer perceptions and collect data concerning the attitudes o


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