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Mystery Shopping Exercise towards a Service of Excellence

From EPSA - European Public Sector Award

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In 2017 the Malta Public Service launched a mystery shopping project with three aims in mind: (a) progressively upgrade the standards of public service delivery towards a sustainable Service of Excellence, where services increasingly become citizen-centric; (b) identify and address processes which need to be simplified and improved to become more efficient and effective; (c) in the process identify development and training needs of the public officers acting as service providers. This meant establishing of a 4 Pillar model - voice, design, delivery and accountability that would ensure a service of excellence. Aiming at a customer/citizen-centric public service, we wanted to improve the status quo of service delivery up to highly satisfactory levels. The mystery shopping method was chosen as the most innovative manner of achieving this goal because while it had never been sourced by the public service, it would give us the most first-hand information about the current position which in turn would help us plan the way forward. It was envisaged that in the process of mystery shopping our customer service areas, we would start a process of instilling a customer service culture across the public service. The back offices of front facing units would indirectly also be assessed and referred to business process reengineering. The major stakeholders in this project are the various Ministries whose departments are front facing, and have direct interaction with the citizen. They are being mystery shopped with a view to optimising improvement on service delivery, and other entities within the public sector. The design of the project is based on the SERVQUAL standards measurement tool and services are gauged against the following ten quality determinants: access, communication, empathy, competence, courtesy, credibility, reliability, responsiveness, security/health and safety environment, and tangibles. The overall footprint of the project spans across the public administration. The mystery shopping project was immediately out sourced, and the selection of contractors was through an assessment for expertise in the various areas and in Mystery Shopping. They proceeded to test the targeted public service sites, report the findings on each of the determinants, rate the service they were accessing, and recommend methods of improvement as well as business process re-engineering, all according to our specifications. In the process, the mystery shoppers’ reports are thoroughly analysed and used as the basis for specific recommendations for improvements designed in the form of Action Plans, which in turn are proposed to the management of the service site/office that was mystery shopped. This involves ongoing collaboration with Ministries and other entities within the public sector whose services are targeted for improvement, and whom we view as our strategic partners in the project. Major recommendations include re-engineering of lengthy processes, providing adequate customer care training to all citizen-contact public officers, and simplifying access to the services – physical access, online/social media access as well as m-Services.


In 2018 our project received the required approval for EU funding as an ESF funded project entitled: ESF.PA4.0078 – Mystery Shopper – Enhanced performance in the Public Administration leading to a Service of Excellence. This gave us assurance of the financial sustainability of the project which rolls out over a span of 5 years. The 51 specific public service sites that have been mystery shopped so far, include the areas of health, tax and finance, work and employment services, economy, business and trade, social welfare equality and social inclusion, and regional services in the island of Gozo. This a positive outcome a good number considering the size of the Malta Public Service On the basis of the mystery shopping findings, a total of 191 recommendations have already been resolved with a view to enhancing the overall customer experience. Outcomes of the mystery shopping project include the improvement in service delivery through increased attention by service sites, to the customer care culture originally targeted for the necessary upgrading. The Mystery Shopping Exercise towards a sustainable Service of Excellence has also generated substantial interest among stakeholders who are attracted by the effective results of the project. We are in the process of rolling out the Quality Label award, which criteria for eligibility includes points resulting from the recommendations implemented following on the mystery shopping exercise. We envisage that this would add to the dynamic of the Mystery Shopping Exercise and reward high fliers.


Award info
Award category: new solutions to complex challenges - a public sector citizen-centric, sustainable and fit for the future - european or national level
Award type: submission
Award year: 2019
Project type
Sector: cross-sectoral
Type of activity:
Keywords: mystery shopping, service of excellence, customer-centric public service delivery, customer care training and people development
Short English description: In 2017 the Malta Public Service launched a mystery shopping project with three aims in mind: (a) progressively upgrade the standards of public service delivery towards a sustainable Service of Excellence, where services increasingly become citizen-centric; (b) identify and address processes which need to be simplified and improved to become more efficient and effective; (c) in the process identify development and training needs of the public officers acting as service providers. This meant establishing of a 4 Pillar model - voice, design, delivery and accountability that would ensure a service of excellence.
Further information
Organisation: People and Standards Division, Office of the Prime Minister, Malta
Other applicants:
Homepage: https://publicservice.gov.mt/en/people/Pages/ESF-04.0078.aspx
Level of government: regional level
Size of organisation: 50-100
Number of people involved: 6-10
Country: Malta
EU membership: EU member
Language code: en
Start date:
End date:


Mystery Shopping Exercise towards a Service of Excellence (35.89534936019615, 14.511792808771133)
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