CITY OF VICTOR HARBOR CUSTOMER SERVICE PHILOSOPHY

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1 CITY OF VICTOR HARBOR CUSTOMER SERVICE PHILOSOPHY PHILOSOPHY STATEMENT The City of Victor Harbor is committed to providing the highest quality Customer Service at all times within the scope of the organisation s operational capacity. This philosophy sets out our service commitment to the community of the City of Victor Harbor and the customers of Council in accordance with the Council s Values and Objectives contained within the Council s Strategic Management Plan. PHILOSOPHY OBJECTIVES To ensure when dealing with customers that all elected members and staff respond in a courteous, consistent, timely and fair manner to all reasonable requests and enquiries including complaints (refer Complaint Handling Procedures). To ensure that Council resources are used efficiently and effectively when dealing with customers. To reinforce that elected members and staff must act within the established legislation and adopted policies of the Council, and that individuals shall not commit Council or exceed the authority vested by the Council or the City Manager when communicating with customers and the community. To set out basic principles of customer contact that clarifies for customers what they can expect from any Council representative. DEFINITIONS City Manager refers to the person appointed to the position of Chief Executive Officer. Council Representative includes the Mayor, an elected member or a staff member of the council. Customer includes: - Residents, ratepayers, members of the business community and community groups - Visitors to the City of Victor Harbor - Future or potential future residents - Government Departments and Non Government Agencies - Council work and elected member colleagues. Director or Departmental Director refers to the person appointed to the position of head of one of the operational departments of Council (i.e. Corporate & Community Services, Environment & Infrastructure Services, Planning & Regulatory Services). Mayor refers to the person occupying the position of Principal Member of the elected body.

2 Organisation means the City of Victor Harbor, a local government authority established under the South Australian Local Government Act EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1. Preamble The aim of this philosophy document is to establish a consistent and professional approach to managing contact with customers and the community. 2. Service Commitment This philosophy document applies equally to elected members and staff, and establishes an expectation that Council representatives will treat customers in a professional and ethical manner with courteous and efficient service. 3. Our 4. Types of Customer Service Explains how Council representatives provide efficient customer service by telephone, written or face-to-face communication. 5. Dealing with Difficult, Rude, Abusive or Aggressive Customers Recognises that difficult situations can be encountered and must be dealt with discreetly and with decorum. It also provides for the City Manager to exclude dealings with particularly difficult customers. 6. Managing Anonymous Customer Action Requests Explains that anonymous requests from customers will not normally be actioned unless the issue places the public safety at risk or raises a serious matter. 7. Confidentiality and Privacy Acknowledges the existence of Legislation and obligations/limitations of the Council with regard to confidentiality and privacy. 8. General Covers adequate documentation and any further action required. 9. Other Reference Documents Acknowledges Legislation and Council policy documents that have a bearing on customer service and business relationships that should be read in conjunction with this document. 10. Date of Review Specifies how often the Philosophy document should be reviewed and by whom. 2

3 Our 1 - We will be Accessible. Monitor waiting times and take action to eliminate tensions. Make home visits by appointment and with the consent of the customer. Provide appropriate signage that is aligned with Council s image and corporate standards. Keep reasonable business hours. Display our opening hours and closing times. Provide an after hours service and advertise this service. Be contactable by telephone, , via letters, facsimiles, our web page and in person. Endeavor to provide physical access for all Council facilities. Ensure that staff and appropriate resources are provided to respond to customers in person during opening hours. Have staff identifiable by corporate uniform or their name badges. Provide a business card to customers who make enquiries and leave a business card to inform a customer that you called if the customer is unavailable. Promote all Council employees as Customer Service Officers. Use voice mail only when necessary. Promote whenever practicable, a one-stop service. Provide multiple payment options for rates, fees and charges. Provide information and access to services on-line where practical and economically achievable. Ensure Council s complaints handling procedures are adhered to. 2 - We will be Active Listeners Listen, be attentive and do not interrupt. Maintain eye contact. Be understanding and remain impartial. Show integrity, being a pre-requisite to trust. Use appropriate body language. Be positive and empathetic. 3

4 Follow good interview techniques. Be responsive to customer and community feedback when drafting and reviewing information leaflets and forms. 3 - We will respect cultural diversity, consider natural and social justice and value human dignity. Avoid all types of discrimination. Treat customers as individuals. Source translation services when necessary. Respect confidentiality and maintain privacy to the extent provided by the legislation. Provide private interview rooms. Treat customers, their homes and property with respect. Respect the different customs and lifestyles of our customers. Ensure we provide services, access and systems of communication for elderly, disabled and disadvantaged customers. 4 - We will practice openness and transparency in working with our customers and community. Explain clearly, when visiting a customer, the reason(s) for the visit. Explain the reason(s) for decisions pertaining to a customer s enquiry or request. Make relevant documentation available to customers upon request (in line with Freedom of Information principles). Respect confidentiality but avoid secrecy. Provide our Customers and the Community with copies of our Grievance Handling Procedure when necessary. Encourage involvement with the Community in our decision making process (in line with the Public Consultation Policy). 5 - We will make reasonable decisions that affect our Customers and the Community. Abide by legislation and regulations, as well as the adopted policies and procedures of the Council. 4

5 Make objectively based decisions. Provide an explanation if we are unable to do what the customer is requesting. Provide alternative solutions if possible and appropriate. Assist customers when referring enquiries to other service providers, be they government or non-government service providers. Adopt a can do attitude to solving enquiries. Advocate for our Customers and Community. Assist customers with complaints by implementing Council s Grievance Handling Procedure. Complaints are a useful source of feedback and may be used for improving Council practice. 6 - We will effectively communicate information and decisions to our Customers and the Community. Provide a range of current information, brochures and reports on Council services in appropriate locations and at forums. Use simple language, avoiding jargon and overly technical terms. Use graphics when appropriate to convey information. Explain issues clearly to customers. Follow up actions in agreed timeframes where possible. Ensure that all relevant documentation is with you when responding to enquiries. Ensure that the information on business cards is up to date. Maintain Council s website with current information. 7 - We will fulfill our commitment to our Customers and the Community. Follow up actions within the agreed timeframes. Inform the customer if the actions are unable to be met within the agreed timeframes. Be punctual for and keep appointments. All correspondence will be acknowledged and actioned within reasonable timeframes. 5

6 8 - We will be accountable and take responsibility for what we do. Always identify yourself to customers. Understand and respect the customer s rights. Deal promptly with issues raised and ensure that the customer is kept informed of the progress of their enquiry. Where possible, ensure that the appropriate person is available before transferring calls. Inform the customer of the name and position of the person to whom you are transferring them. Maintain Occupation Health and Safety policy and procedures. Do not take uninformed risks. Do not exceed individual authority or delegations. Ensure adequate record keeping. 9 - We will provide our customers and the community with processes to review our decisions. Customer complaints will be managed under Council s Complaints Handling Policy (Grievance Handling Procedure and Council s Internal Review of a Council Decision). Convey the outcome of a request for the review of a decision to the customer. Ensure Council s Complaint Handling Policy and relevant complaint handling procedures are promoted and readily available to the community We will encourage customer feedback as an opportunity to improve our service provision and decision making. Provide reception areas that are tidy, welcoming and safe. Thank customers for raising an issue with us. Ensure we are open to consumer complaints. Recognise that complaints are a useful source of feedback. Undertake customer surveys. Convey the outcomes of surveys to the community. Conduct Community Forums to disseminate information and receive feedback. 6

7 Engender a culture within the organisation that receives constructive criticism in a positive manner. Make available to the community copies of Council s Public Consultation Policy. 11 Work as a Team Work together with shared responsibility to achieve quality customer outcomes for the community and our customers. Be cognisant of both political and operational perspectives associated with an issue. Types of Customer Service and Our Commitment Customers contact Council for a wide variety of issues ranging from enquiries, complaints and requests for information or advice, to the provision of direct services (eg. Development Application, Dog Registrations, Rates Payment, etc.) (1) Telephone Calls Council recognises the importance of telephone calls and will answer all calls promptly and efficiently, referring calls to the appropriate officer quickly and providing clear and concise information in response to caller enquiries. Council endeavours to: Advise all callers of the name of the person answering the call, or making the call where it is outgoing from Council. Deal with the call, redirect the call or take a clear message from the caller as required. Ensure all messages include details of the caller s name, contact number and message as well as details of who took the message and when. When calls cannot be fully responded to immediately, give clear advice to the caller about when the caller can expect a response. Put calls on hold for the minimum amount of time possible and, if a customer is placed on hold, return to the caller periodically to inform them of the status of their call. Speak clearly, deal with customers calmly, courteously and patiently, even when the callers are angry, aggressive or distressed. Answer unattended telephones in the absence of colleagues whenever practical Respond to telephone messages within 48 hours where possible. Change voic message(s) when staff are absent on an extended period of leave. (2) Written Council recognises the importance of correspondence (letters, facsimiles and messages) and will provide clear and concise responses promptly. Council endeavours to: 7

8 Provide a response to all matters within fifteen (15) working days of receiving the correspondence and within five (5) days for s if the item requires a response. If a full response cannot be provided within the timeframe, an acknowledgement will be sent (within 5 working days) advising the timeframes of when a more detailed response can be provided. Ensure that all outward correspondence includes the name and contact details of the officer dealing with the matter and Council s file reference. Use language that is clear and concise. (3) Face to Face Council recognises the need to promptly serve members of the public who come to Council to seek information or transact business. Council will endeavour to have officers available to the public during office hours or at designated times. Council endeavours to: Make staff available for interviews by prior arrangement. Acknowledge all customers immediately upon arrival into the reception area, or if already dealing with another customer, as soon as practical. Attend to members of the public at the customer service help desks in a professional and helpful manner. Promptly advise staff if there is a member of the public in the reception area for an appointment. Provide a range of information for public inspection in customer service areas. Speak clearly and deal with visitors calmly, courteously and patiently, even when visitors are angry, aggressive or distressed. Make appointments to visit a customer external to Council s facilities. At the beginning of any Council visit, staff or elected members must clearly identify themselves and the purpose of the visit. Ensure that all relevant staff are present to address each matter appropriately. Dealing With Difficult Customers Council representatives are expected to treat customers with courtesy and respect at all times and to make every reasonable effort to address the customer s needs even when she/he is rude or difficult. It is certain however, that whatever standard of professional and positive customer service Council achieves, there will be a small percentage of customers whose issues cannot be dealt with to their satisfaction. This may be due to refusal by the customer to accept a Council decision, demands placed on Council which are not within our scope or resources to meet, or a level of rudeness or aggression shown to staff by the customer that makes it unsafe or unreasonable to proceed. Where the City Manager is satisfied that every effort has been made by staff to address a customer s needs, he/she may make a decision that there is no reasonable prospect of reaching a position where a particular customer is satisfied with Council s actions and service. In such a case the City Manager may decide to stop or limit responses to the customer in relation to the issue in question. This may include: 8

9 refusal to accept telephone calls, face to face contacts or make appointments with the customer; a request that all future communication be in writing; provision of responses to queries, information requests only where a new issue has been presented; identification of a single staff member as contact person through whom all communication must occur; or Identification of an independent party, such as a mediator or legal professional, through whom all communication shall occur. Where the City Manager has made such a decision, he/she will ensure that this is communicated in writing to the customer and that the customer is given the opportunity to make representations to Council about the proposed course of action. In addition the City Manager will advise elected members of any correspondence issued in relation to such a decision. The City Manager will continue to monitor any further contact with the customer over the issue. Customers Who Are Rude, Abusive or Aggressive Rude, abusive or aggressive behaviour may include rude or otherwise vulgar noises, expressions or gestures, verbal abuse of either a personal or general nature, intimidating, threatening or offensive behaviour, physical violence against property or physical violence against a person. If, in the opinion of any Council representative, rude, abusive or aggressive comments or statements are made in telephone conversations or interviews, the representative may: a) warn the caller/customer that if the behaviour continues, the conversation or interview will be terminated; b) terminate the conversation or interview if the rude, abusive or aggressive behaviour continues after a warning has been given. Where a conversation or interview is terminated, the staff member must then inform his/her Supervisor (elected members shall inform the Mayor or City Manager) of the incident and make a diary note of the event. Where appropriate, the Supervisor will then discuss the matter with the City Manager or Departmental Director to determine what action should be taken with respect to the customer s behaviour. If a staff member is dealing with a customer in the reception area, and feel that they or other customers or staff may be placed in a dangerous situation, the staff member is to follow the duress alarm procedures. If, in the opinion of the City Manager, any correspondence to Council contains personal abuse, inflammatory statements or material clearly intended to intimidate, it will be placed on the relevant file and not otherwise acted upon. Legal advice may also be obtained if the issue is considered serious enough. 9

10 Managing Anonymous Customer Action Requests Customers can make anonymous action requests to Council. These action requests, however, can be difficult to investigate as often staff need to obtain more information from the person making the complaint and for obvious reasons it is impossible to contact the person making the complaint and communicate the findings of Council. Council will not normally investigate anonymous action requests unless the issue places public safety at risk or raises a serious matter and there is sufficient information within the complaint to make out a prima facie case or to carry out an investigation. Confidentiality and Privacy All dealings with customers must abide by the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988 (and as amended in 2004). Elected members and staff must also respect any matters referred to confidentiality under Section 90 of the Local Government Act 1999 which have not been formally released by a resolution of Council. Access to information held by Council must be made in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act. General In all of the situations referred to in this policy, adequate documentary records must be made and maintained on the appropriate Council file. Where the City Manager determines to limit a customer s access to Council in any of the ways specified in this policy, the City Manager must advise the Council as soon as possible of the relevant circumstances and the action taken. Other Reference Documents This Statement should be read in conjunction with the following reference documents: Code of Conduct Elected Members Code of Conduct Employees Code of Practice Access to Meetings and Documents Council s Complaint Handling Policy Council s Grievance Handling Procedure Council s Internal Review of Council Decisions Procedure Public Consultation Policy Duress Alarm and Emergency Procedures How will we achieve our commitment? By including in staff recruitment a selection criteria of a positive attitude towards customer service; By educating staff through customer service training programs; By providing opportunities for elected members and staff to attend training programs on how to deal with difficult people; By incorporating customer service improvements and team building strategies into Strategic Plans; 10

11 By making the development of positive customer service attitudes part of the performance review program for all staff; By conducting regular market research to ensure we are meeting the needs of our customers; By reviewing and improving forms, systems and procedures; By progressively improving access to our services for people with disabilities; By progressively improving access to our services for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; By improving access to Council information by utilising a wide range of information including regular news and council features in the local printed media and on community radio, public meetings, new residents welcome pack, annual report and electronic access via the Internet. Review This Philosophy document is to be reviewed by the Council within 12 months of the completion of a general Local Government election or as necessary. Adoption and Review History Adopted at the Council meeting held on Monday 23 June Reviewed 6 April Council Contact Details Council Office: Correspondence to: 1 Bay Road, VICTOR HARBOR City Manager City of Victor Harbor PO Box 11, VICTOR HARBOR SA 5211 Phone: Fax: Website: After Hours: (emergency only) 11

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