Turning a deaf ear to citizen Beijing Sino-US Conference on Public Management
Turning a deaf ear to citizen or how to translate
citizen feedback into continuous improvement:
recent best practices.
Alessandro Minelli and Renato Ruffini
LIUC Carlo Cattaneo University, Italy
The complaints management systems’ many
Blame-rich and credit-poor public managers →
Excess of democracy
ISO 9001:2015 and EFQM-CAF 2013
Is complaint analysis a correct tool for planning nowadays?
Is Complaint a consistent and efficient planning tool, or a NPM
tool not already specifically calibrated for PA classical aspects?
Complaints management can be improved in its positive input
valence or is a part of a larger concept of transparency, included
in strategies to create informed citizens
Ruffini, 2013; Koontz, 1999; Crozier, Huntington and Watanuki, 1975; Arnstein, 1969
Long period oriented
Yang and Holzer, 2006; Solomon, 2005; Ruffini, 1999;
Learning from feedback
Listen to “discontented” inside and outside the organization
"Hard" (process, technicalities, function), and "Soft" (customers, values, culture d'enterprise) factors
Targetology vs Accountability
Competitive vs collaborative learning (→ deutero learning; inquiry; values)
"Wal – Mart” approach focus on a specific procedure rather than on policy correctness
So 2012; Lewis & Triantafillou, 2012; Longbottom & Hilton, 2011;Brewer, 2007; Kelman, 2005; Argyris & Schon, 1998
Efficiency Unit Hong Kong
The Efficiency Unit idea is that Complaints provide important intelligence to departments
on where there may be improvement areas and systemic weaknesses.
In 2013 over half of the departments captured and shared the experience/lessons learnt
in complaints (61%) handling, but only 1% of the departments declared publicly that there
were policy changes/service delivery improvements implemented as a result of
As many as 71% of the departments did not make public their complaints handling
information, be it complaints statistics, performance in complaints handling, or policy
changes/service delivery improvements implemented as a result of complaints made
Scottish Community Services Agency
2007 Crerar Review (report of the independent review of regulation, audit, inspection and complaints
handling of public services in Scotland)
2008 Sinclair report (Fit For Purpose Complaints System Action Group)
2010 Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act → complaints handling procedures (CHPs) overseen by
the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman → leading to the Complaints Standards Authority
CHPs include an emphasis on valuing complaints by recording all complaints, reporting key
information and using the lessons learned to improve service delivery
There is a requirement for each organisation to publish its complaints performance on a quarterly
basis and publicise its performance annually. Organisations are also required to use complaints data
to learn from complaints and to drive up standards of service delivery.
A new complaints cataloging model
A Performance Technical Content
Includes: technical compliance, readiness and timeliness, time and space consistency/homogeneity
B Performance Transparency and accessibility
Includes: communication, information, system of signals, guides to services
C Performance Availability and amplitude
Includes: Services amplitude, Performance completeness, effectiveness and utility of Services
D Consumer orientation
Includes: responsiveness, competence, courtesy, fairness, reassurance, empathy, capacity to identify customized solutions
Includes: cleanliness, comfort and safety dedicated to welcoming consumers
Italian Case Study 1
YEAR No. COMPLAINTS PA/CA
2011 44 5 (2 C; 2D; 1 E)
2012 45 3 (1 C; 2D)
2013 31 3 (2 C; 1D)
Table 2: Complaints handling for CS1 in the 2011-2013 period
Italian Case Study 2
YEAR No. COMPLAINTS PA/CA
2011 165 40 (19A; 3B; 10C;
4D; 4E) over 182
2012 219 41 (27A; 9B; 4D;
1E) over 145
2013 194 91 (55A; 6B; 21C;
4D; 5E) over 169
Table 3: Complaints handling for CS2 in the 2011-2013 period
Comparing the Italian Case Studies
Corrective action is averse to a Common managerial
culture of CS2, while it is evident in the CS1.
The Public Agency lies on citizens which are 100%
customers, and this explains why on the total PA/CA the
subarea D is always present.
In both institutions safety and hygiene are not a priority,
while technical compliance is the most common subject of
Complaints management has a distorted use, for lack of interest in using it, but above all because the
organizational mandate is missing, or worst top managers accept "Laziness"
Administrative burdens can be implemented via less visible administrative processes, requiring lower
political consultation and less need to acknowledge their purpose.
Civil servants have in general a negative approach to transparency motivation and feedback reuse,
while being solicited to innovate during crisis and being more and more the unit of analysis
An individual and institutional growth path deriving from a transparent approach to services planning
and provision, pointed out also by citizens
Moynihan, 2014; Ruffini, 2013; Kelman, 2006; Yang and Holzer, 2006
Potential future research developments
“Noisy” complaints (the ones which are not completely founded, are relevant in numbers and tend to
be influenced by specific actors or worst by the media i.e. education or taxation issues).
Concerns on the statistical value of data from “multiple” complaints (same complaints proposed by a
great number of different citizens) or of the “serial” complainers cannot be considered in a traditional
Definition of a ladder of civic involvement, that “grades” complaints according to citizens’ interest in
A new measurement method were civil servants are not the only people assessed is advisable. There
should be also the citizens, for their skills in input production.
Financial as well as political issues could be essential to foresee negative picks and therefore there
could be tests in order to reduce the impact of these picks and favour a trend analysis as underlined in
the Efficiency Unit case study.
Last, but not least, if “laziness” is a real issue in public management shyness on continuous
improvement which are the characters of a “bad” manager?
Centro di Ricerca sulla Pubblica Amministrazione - LIUC
Università Carlo Cattaneo