Welcoming the publication of 'How to consult your users: an introductory guide', Mr Kilfoyle said:
'The government is promoting top quality public services, that foster partnership and are open and responsive to the people who use them.
'How to consult your users is part of the wider Better Government programme. It offers public sector organisations advice on using customer and staff consultation to improve their services. It is packed with useful examples, most of them from Charter Mark winning services.
'Consultation is an effective way to ensure that services are user-focused and resources spent wisely. It helps organisations plan, prioritise and deliver better services and, if properly carried out, means that users are given a stake in the services they use.
'How to consult your users contains all the latest developments and advice on consulting, to help public sector organisations give people the services they want.'
The guidance offers the following tips on how to consult:
- build consultation into your regular planning cycle and consult early
- don't ask for views if you can't or won't do anything with them;
- learn from others - experts or organisations that have used consultation before
- use more than one method of consultation
- be flexible - think how to reach all your users
- don't just consult your users - ask others, too, including your staff
- be sensitive to those you want to consult - encourage them to give honest views
- publicise your consultation so that all who want to can feed in views
- report backs on the views received and what you have done as a result
- evaluate carefully after consulting, and learn lessons for next time
And it spells out the pros and cons of a range of ways of consulting, including:
- suggestion and testing tools such as user comments, feedback from staff, suggestion schemes, and piloting changes;
- qualitative methods such as open meetings, using representative groups, face-to-face interviews, focus groups, user panels, citizens' panel and citizens' juries;
- quantitative methods such as questionnaire-based surveys and ballots;
- written consultation exercises; and
- visuals and presentations, including open days, roadshows, exhibitions and the use of information technology.
Mr Kilfoyle added:
'This best practice guide reflects the Better Government principles of giving people a voice and driving up standards across the public service. It is a welcome addition to the series of documents being published by the Cabinet Office to help providers deliver better services.'
1. Copies of How to consult your users: an introduction can be obtained by calling the Service First Publications Line on 0345 223242.
2. The publication can also be found on the Service First website at www.servicefirst.gov.uk.
3. The guide replaces Asking your users...how to improve services through consulting your consumers, published in 1995. It is one of a series of best practice guides for public services produced by the Service First Unit. Publications from 1998 include How to draw up a national charter, How to draw up a local charter, How to conduct written consultation exercises: an introduction for central
government, How to deal with complaints, How to apply for a Charter Mark and How to improve local authority regulatory services.