NOTE: this is the fourth in an intermittent series of posts about the professional values I did my best to live by and communicate as expectations to court staff in order to provide excellent public service.
One of the basic keys to providing excellent public service is the quality of the work we perform when users interact with our court. What is meant by quality? Quality as used in this context is defined as having a high degree of merit, and traditionally has been measured by the factors of accuracy and timeliness.
The nature of our work mandates a very high level of accuracy because errors we make can have a profound adverse impact. For example, if we misplace a decimal point in our financial transactions, it can cost a litigant large sums of money. Another example with severe ramifications is errors in opening new cases which can result in such things as an offender not being arrested, a restraining order not being issued, or a debtor not having the protection of the stay to avert the foreclosure sale of the debtor’s home.
Remember, everything we do impacts people’s lives, often to a very great extent. Thus, it is critical that we do our work right and check to make sure it is so before moving on to the next task. It is better to get it right the first time for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is it doubles the work when a correction must be made. This is not a new concept, as Seneca in ancient Rome wrote in his Epistles, “it is quality rather than quantity that matters.”
The effectiveness of our work also rests on how quickly it is performed. Even if we have a perfect accuracy level, if it takes too long to do a task we have greatly diminished, and perhaps eliminated, the service altogether. Many of our duties have explicit time deadlines we must meet, both mandated from outside and set by ourselves. Since the courts are the fulcrum of the justice system, we have a special responsibility to complete our work quickly, keeping in mind that the phrase “justice delayed is justice denied” has a lot of truth in our office’s work.
In recent years, though, quality has come to mean more. Quality now has additional meaning as measured by our users’ expectations – the public are demanding more than ever before. Put yourself in the place of any of our users, either internal or external. You will measure the quality of your experience by whatever your expectations were prior to the interaction, and whether the experience was better or worse than those expectations. Obviously, the factors of accuracy and timeliness play a large part in this measurement, but other factors, such as the manner of personal treatment (cordial, respectful, attentive, etc.) and the accessibility of our services and information, play a key role.
So, we must pay constant attention to accuracy, timeliness, and our customers’ additional expectations to achieve a high degree of merit. We need to stay focused on the desired outcome in all situations, and make sure we provide appropriate quality as both we (with our internal standards of performance) and our users define it. Quality, then, is fundamental to our providing excellent customer service and fulfilling the public’s trust in us as public servants.