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Immigration Gets Thumbs-up

Published 20th September 2012, 3:27pm


"Overall, there has been a marked improvement on all Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in most service areas," states the just-released Department of Immigration Customer Service Survey.

Immigration management has welcomed the results of the survey of over 150 of its clients, which used five KPIs: value for service, customer service, responsiveness, knowledge and confidentiality. It was released last month by Deloitte, which also administered a similar poll for the agency at the end of 2009.

The service area with the most improvement in customer satisfaction levels was the Work Permit Board, which had significant improvements in all KPIs assessed. According to the report, other notable improvements were in the areas of Temporary and Business Visitor's Permits, Business Staffing Plan Board and Passport and Corporate Services.

"I'm especially happy to see that the survey found that our clients identified greater improvements in our responsiveness and customer service, as well as significantly improved confidentiality. This is exactly what we have been working to achieve," says Chief Immigration Officer (CIO) Linda Evans, who took over the reins in September 2009.

Three years ago, the results provided feedback on key areas, and identified weak spots – such as customer service, turnaround times, and the officers' knowledge base. "While the 2009 results were not encouraging, we used them as the basis to assist in developing a new strategic plan to address areas of concern," she notes.

"Internally, we have introduced the Department's Training Unit, which has developed a comprehensive training programme with emphasis on developing the knowledge-base," says the CIO. "This has already made a positive impact on service but the officials recognize there is still room for improvement."

Ms Evans states tangible examples "as the revised forms and checklists have provided clarity to our clients on the respective Boards’ requirements for the various application-types; and allowed for a consistent approach to decision-making."

"Another major focus has been on alleviating 'bottlenecks' which hamper efficiency. As a result, we have made reconfigurations to the workflow in the IMSS database and this has assisted in reducing turnaround times."

She says a notable improvement has been made to the Department’s internal complaints policy, which has also allowed staff opportunities to learn from their mistakes, then make corrective actions and improvements going forward.

New offerings which have been welcomed by the business community include Immigration Online and the emailing of approvals for work permit and licenses once the decision is made. The online service has empowered clients by allowing them access to their employee records within the immigration database, thereby reducing their reliance on staff to provide updates on the status of their applications.

"This progress is the result of the staff's hard work, innovativeness and dedication, and a focussed and dedicated approach to change-management," the CIO notes. "Measures implemented over the past three years have included a renewed focus on utilizing technology in our business processes."

The 88-page survey document lists feedback from clients, who indicated that every section has made improvements. Especially so the timeliness and quality of the work of the respective immigration boards – as well as the Passport and Corporate Services section. Each page also contains comparisons to the 2009 survey findings.

One positive trend is that confidentiality has also improved significantly overall; and while all KPIs identified three years ago have improved, there is still room for improvement, particularly in the delivery-of-service, says the CIO.

The most notable negative area was the issue of individual officers' lack of knowledge. "This rating is not entirely unexpected, however, as we have over 160 staff working in 10 specialised sections," says Ms Evans. The report identifies improvement needed at the Immigration Counter, where customer service, responsiveness, flexibility and knowledge of staff are an issue. The CIO assures clients that measures were put in place in recent weeks to strengthen this area.

The subjective comments of those surveyed are proving useful to the department. While the names have been redacted for confidentiality purposes, all narratives are included in the document.

"I attribute these gains to a conscious effort to guide and develop our staff as well as our operating systems, and these efforts are already paying dividends," adds Ms Evans.

Even though this year’s results are much more pleasing, the management and staff have stated that they remain committed to realising further enhancements.

Read the complete Immigration Customer Service Survey Results.