Warning that he will not allow a few “poor performers” to ruin the reputation and hard work of the Cayman Islands civil service, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson has signaled that bad customer service in government departments may lead to “separation” – firing – from the public sector.
The warning comes in a three-page memo dated Friday, Feb. 13, which was distributed to government workers on Tuesday.
“Civil servants who consistently provide poor customer service will be required to separate from the civil service,” Mr. Manderson’s administrative circular read. “Such persons, by association, harm the reputation of the majority of staff who do exceptional work and they harm the public’s confidence in the civil service overall.”
Mr. Manderson said it was “evident” that the civil service was “not doing enough” in the area of customer service, and he used, as an example, a recent poll in the Cayman Compass newspaper as evidence of customer dissatisfaction.
In the online Compass poll, published on Jan. 30, nearly two-thirds of the respondents gave a grade of “poor” or “terrible” to the Cayman Islands civil service when it comes to customer service.
Of the 417 respondents to the one-week poll, the largest segment – 143 people or 34.3 percent – thought the civil service had terrible customer service.
One of the poll comments, from an unnamed respondent simply stated: “Answer your d%&# phones!”
Another wrote: “Too often I have been ignored after a long wait in line for service. It seems chatting to colleagues, doing nails, checking the iPhone are all more important and what they are paid to do.”
A third commenter stated: “A call to immigration last week was answered with a ‘no talk now’ and then silence as I was hung up on.”
“It’s a ‘no’ culture; they say ‘no’ first, no matter what,” noted another poll respondent.
The poll responses went on in a generally negative vein.
Mr. Manderson said he was “disappointed” that the majority of those who responded to the online poll rated government customer service so low.
“If we fail in this area, we harm our reputation with the public and our elected leaders,” he said.
In an effort to improve customer relations, Mr. Manderson said the government and the management of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman have again agreed to collaborate on an employee training program aimed at providing the “gold standard” level of customer service. A similar program with the Ritz was undertaken in 2012 under Mr. Manderson’s leadership.
The deputy governor said that while poor performance must be dealt with, the civil service is also eager to resume pay raises for exceptional job performance.
“We … wish to reinstate within grade increments and other rewards for those who perform at a high level,” he said.
In recent budget years, some pay incentives have been awarded to the civil service. A 2.5 percent of salary one-time bonus was paid to government workers during the 2013/14 budget year.
Starting in July, Premier Alden McLaughlin has promised a 4 percent across-the-board pay raise in the civil service.
The Cayman Islands government has never implemented performance pay bonuses for workers, though they were proposed as early as 2007 by civil service managers.
The idea was to award documented good performance with bonuses totaling up to 10 percent of an employee’s salary. Budget constraints have prevented the government from providing performance-based pay bonuses since then.