Understanding the Drivers- 'Staff were competent' fact sheet
- utd-staff-competent.PDF 277 KB PDF
State Services Commission, July 2009. To print or download this fact sheet, use the PDF version attached above.
Understanding the Drivers is a research project that helps us to understand what the drivers of satisfaction and trust mean to New Zealanders.
Forty focus groups were held across the country in 2008 with the general public, Māori, Asian, Pacific and young people (aged 15 - 30 years). Groups were held in main centres and provincial areas. The views of these New Zealanders have provided us with a wealth of information to assist public service agencies to become more user-focused and accessible, and ultimately improve service delivery for New Zealanders.
This fact sheet provides a summary of one of the six drivers of satisfaction (see the For more information section at the end of the fact sheet for further details about the programme).
Participants felt that to be competent in one's job meant being capable of doing the job required. Participants were not expecting an outstanding service, rather there was a focus on just getting the basics right. There was considerable overlap between meeting customer expectations and what it meant to be a competent staff member.
Participants said the most important factor that competent staff should have was knowledge. They expected staff to know about the services their organisation offered and could help the customer. If they could not help then staff needed to be honest and upfront about it. In these circumstances staff were expected to know who could help and take responsibility to ensure a successful referral was made.
"It's knowledge. They know what they're talking about. If you've got anything that you want to query they've got the answers for you."
Another important aspect of competence was staff being able to listen and understand the customer's circumstances and to treat them like an individual. For participants, being customer focused, while not as important as being knowledgeable or understanding, was nevertheless a desirable characteristic for staff to have. Being friendly and polite would enable better understanding for staff as Participants said they were more likely to open up or relax with someone who was approachable.
"If they were friendly you would relax with them and tell them a lot more and they might pick up on a lot more things you should or shouldn't be doing. Rather than everyone be guarded."
Staff who communicated in a clear and simple manner and were confident also inspired confidence that they knew what they were talking about. Being able to help required that staff were skilled at explaining processes and informing people of their entitlements.
In summary, participants reported that competent staff were:
- Knowledgeable about the services their organisation offered and could help the customer, or knew who could help
- Able to listen and understood their customer's circumstances
- Customer focused, that is, were friendly, polite and approachable
- Able to communicate in a clear and simple manner
Asian participants interpreted competency as providing an outstanding service as opposed to other groups that said competency was about just getting the basics right. They also stressed speed and efficiency as more significant attributes of competence.
Pacific people were the only ones to raise the need for cultural understanding as a mark of competence.
Given the significant overlap with the previous driver, many of the service improvements outlined below also apply to the 'meeting expectations' driver:
- To read the full Understanding the Drivers report, visit:
- For more information about Understanding the Drivers email:
- To read the Kiwis Count 2007 report visit:
- To find out more about the New Zealanders' Experience research programme and read other research reports visit: