ISSUE 16 | 2016
On Tuesday, 18 October, I had the honour to launch the in-house Home Affairs Client Contact Centre, at Hallmark, Pretoria. It was a milestone in our journey towards service excellence. The multichannel Contact Centre was well-received going by feedback from guests at the launch and from various media reports. The guests said it will help reduce ceaseless queues at front offices.
The Daily Sun newspaper, famed consistently for labelling us a ‘Horror Affairs,’ saw it as a “call centre for home affairs to make life easier” (19 October 2016). The Citizen picked up this theme with the headline “Easier to contact home affairs in PTA”. In two words, the paper said we promised “better service.” It emphasised the commitment on our part through the contact centre “to improve” the department’s “response to queries”. Pretoria News raised the bar even higher for us. It said, “Home Affairs goes hi-tech to streamline client service.”
At the launch, I also said “I’m happy with its performance,” thus putting my neck on the block. And so, the four pertinent questions we should be asking ourselves are the following:
I for one would like to say “Yes!” There’s no middle ground. Yet none of us can drive the Home Affairs ship all alone. We all must pull in the same direction. With regard to client satisfaction, we know where we are. We know precisely where we have been, as a department. Succinctly put in the words of Pretoria News, we ought to “bring immediate resolutions to customers’ queries.”
Nothing less than high-class service will satisfy South Africans. What happened earlier this month at the Centurion Office bears testimony to this; it calls urgently for service improvement. Your soft skills wherever you are positioned in the department, will make all the difference, for our clients. Even where there is a delay or no instant resolution, being polite, courteous and friendly, will go a long way in earning respect, and empathy, for yourself, and for all of us.
We want visible improvement in how you all handle queries from clients, to ensure requests are properly managed, according to agreed standards. Past experience showed a need for a single, messaging system capable of seamlessly receiving, processing and resolving client queries.
The old, manual, fragmented client service system was not working. We encountered problems in tracking of queries, record-keeping, coordination among units, application of standard operating procedures and in compliance with service delivery standards.
The Contact Centre has brought our client service structures under one roof, reporting to Branch: Institutional Planning & Support thus to enable citizens to lodge queries at a central point, with consistent responses from consultants. It would be remiss of me not to commend DDG Thulani Mavuso and the entire team for pulling this together. It is indeed a great achievement considering the intricate planning and restructuring involved in the entire process.
You all are advised, the merits of each case dictating, to direct queries to the Contact Centre, among other reasons to enable managers to focus on other functions and areas of service delivery, while ensuring all queries are recorded and not tackled on an ad hoc basis. The Contact Centre has multiple access channels for registering queries and will also serve as an information centre for clients.
It was established based on 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.
The Home Affairs Contact Centre is aligned with the Citizen Complaints and Compliments Management Framework of the Department of Public Service and Administration. It should bring our department 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.
Equally important is that the Contact Centre advances our risk management objectives as it makes us to be responsive to the members of the public and to deal promptly with their queries.
I would like to wish our team in the Contact Centre the very best in their endeavour to deliver excellent services to clients in a very difficult terrain of a call centre, dealing daily with different people, moods and attitudes. I thank you for the good work done so far. This is an important component of the Modernisation Programme we are currently rolling out qualitatively to improve the way we deliver home affairs services to the people. Its establishment and envisaged impact thereof should enrich the strategic task to build a modern, digital, professional, people-centred and secure government department.
Minister of Home Affairs