18 October 2016
Pretoria – Today marked an important milestone in the Home Affairs journey towards service delivery improvement as it launched a new, integrated, unified messaging client contact centre. In recent times, uppermost among the list of public concerns was the way public enquiries and complaints were managed, particularly phone calls, with many complaining about calls not being answered.
Accordingly, the Department took a careful look at how best to develop and administer an effective system to enable clients to raise issues and have them resolved. It acted urgently understanding the need for government to ensure service delivery, and also that complaints are managed effectively and that the right of redress is upheld, for good governance and service improvement.
The new Home Affairs Contact Centre is aimed at improving how officials handle enquiries, requests for service-related information and complaints, as well as compliments from citizens and clients. This critical government Department, that enables service delivery for all, has a duty professionally and efficiently to ensure all requests are handled properly, and resolved within reasonable timeframes.
Past experience showed a need for a single, messaging system capable of seamlessly receiving, processing and resolving client queries. Until end of March 2016, the Department used a manual, fragmented client service system and a network of internal nodal-points based in the line function units of Civics and Immigrations. Problems included inadequate tracking of queries and record-keeping, weak coordination among officials and units handling client queries, inconsistent application of standard operating procedures and low compliance with service delivery standards.
This impacted on accountability while producing duplication and ineffective systems. Casualties in this were clients and staff, in terms of confidence in the system, morale and enjoyment of rights. Some clients were frustrated when contact centre consultants sent them from pillar to post with no aid in sight, thus the investment in cutting ‘the red-tape’ and progressively improving services using available technologies.
The new in-house Home Affairs Contact Centre, powered by officials and consultants with intimate knowledge of our mandate, our vision and mission for existing, is a major shift from past practices. It has brought together all customer service structures under one roof, reporting to one Branch – Institutional Support & Planning. The Contact Centre enables members of the public to lodge queries at a central point and to have all logged cases attended to uniformly with consistent responses from consultants.
All channels for lodging complaints are therefore linked to the Contact Centre. Cases are registered on a central case management system. Home Affairs officials were advised to direct queries to the Contact Centre. This will also enable managers to focus on other functions and areas of service delivery.
The Contact Centre has multiple access channels for members of the public to register their queries with the Department and have them resolved within set turnaround times. It will serve also as an information centre for clients who need information from the Department on various services and prescribed procedures and requirements. It will therefore help in redirecting queues from front offices, allowing front office staff to concentrate on applications and providing enabling documents to citizens and clients.
Through the new Contact Centre, we will address problems before they become costly. Another advantage is that it will enable the Department to measure the clients’ complaints against set performance and service standards. We will use the results as a management tool for improving service delivery. Importantly, the Contact Centre will support the recognition, promotion and protection of citizens’ rights.
Critically, it is imperative to note that work is in progress to load other components of the National Population Register to ensure maximum access to information related to all Home Affairs services. In the coming months, we will integrate all our systems including the Home Affairs National Identification System, the National Immigration Identification System as well as the Movement Control System.
The Contact Centre was established based on what could be seen as the four key elements of a well-functioning Contact Centre – people, processes, technology and quality management strategies. It will serve as a multiple access channel centre offering voice, e-mail, web with USSD, mobile app, self-service and social media platforms. It operates from Monday to Saturday.
The Contact Centre is aligned with the Citizen Complaints and Compliments Management Framework of the Department of Public Service and Administration. It should bring Home Affairs closer to the policy framework outlined in the National Development Plan, for all service-delivery points to provide clear information on where citizens can go and who they can talk to when they are dissatisfied.
There can be no commendable client contact centre where the partners play a passive role. For every disappointment felt, pick up a phone, drop an SMS or email message, alerting the Department of your frustrations, whether as clients or concerned citizens.
The Department will therefore be interested to know how people feel about this latest innovation which is a component of the Modernisation Programme that is being rolled out to improve the way we serve, particularly in this rapidly evolving era of technological advancement and e-governance.
For media enquiries contact Thabo Mokgola or Mayihlome Tshwete
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF HOME AFFAIRS