Service guidelines

Reykjavík City's service guidelines support City employees in providing good services. There are ten guidelines, each containing helpful advice and guidance for everybody working at Reykjavík City.

What is a service?

Service is everything we do that helps other people do something. If you help people in your work, whether they are residents or colleagues, you are providing a service.

The keys to good service are based on the service policy of Reykjavík City, which involves providing professional and accessible service that meets the needs of users.

The keys on the side are good service guidelines. They help staff align and work together to provide their service, no matter what type of service it is.

1. Good services are designed around the needs of service users

We put service users first and design services based on their needs. This makes the entire experience much more pleasant.

Why does this matter?

Reykjavík City provides diverse services that impact the daily lives of all residents, visitors and City employees.

The diverse needs of these groups mean the best way to offer services can vary. Instead of assuming how services should be delivered, we first talk to those who use them and ask about their experiences.

This conversation can significantly improve services and prevent the development of solutions that may be unnecessary or do not address the correct issues. This approach saves both time and money in the long run.

How do we ensure services are designed based on the needs of service users?

We regularly learn about the challenges people face when using the services. We do this by regularly asking service users how they experience the service. We can use surveys, interviews, focus groups, or simply chat directly with the service user.

We ask ourselves:

  • How does the service user experience the service?
  • Where are the main challenges for the service users?
  • What would improve the service experience?

Once we map out the challenges of service users, we can test possible solutions with real users. This way, we find out what service users think before we proceed with costly developments or time-consuming work. Let's be unafraid to try new approaches, review, change and improve based on people's evolving needs.

2. Good services are consistent throughout

Users are treated the same, regardless of where or how they access the service.

The service is coordinated from start to finish and the City staff work together to provide it as a team. The staff support each other throughout the process and are willing to seek solutions and work on problem resolution together.

Why does this matter?

Service users often experience services as a whole, even if our role is just one part of the service chain. All messaging from Reykjavík City, directly or indirectly, shapes a specific experience. Therefore, it is important that the service chain is coordinated and consistent throughout. The manner of City staff should always be consistent with the City’s tone of voice: Trustworthy, friendly, and clear.

All users have the right to the same respect and equal treatment. Coordinated service creates trust and prevents discrimination.

Being trusted also involves showing trust. We always assume that users come to us in good faith, and we never start communication by mistrusting people or their purpose.

How do we ensure that services are consistent throughout?

The foundation for coordinated service and treatment is communication.

We ask ourselves:

  • How and through what channels do we communicate with users? Through the web? Phone? Email? Press releases? What messages are suitable for each medium?
  • Do staff providing information have access to the same, relevant, and latest information?
  • Is there support material for staff who handle communication to ensure that the response is consistent and in line with the City's tone of voice?
  • Do staff handling communication get support and appropriate training to perform their job as well as possible?

3. Good service has a clear purpose

The user quickly understands whether the service is intended for them, what it does, and why it exists.

We use descriptive titles that immediately indicate what the service does and who it is for. We set the purpose of the service in a clear way, so it is unambiguous from the start what the user can expect from the service and what requirements the user may need to meet.

Why does this matter?

Nobody wants to waste unnecessary time searching for the right service or discovering later in the process that this wasn't the right service for them.

A clear purpose is also a prerequisite for defining the goals of the service, measuring its success, developing it, and iterating it.

More about service development in service guideline 10.

How do we ensure that the service has a clear purpose?

We ask ourselves:

  • What is the name of the service? Is the name as descriptive as possible?
  • What words do people use when they search for the service (e.g., online)? Is it easy to find the service using those words?
  • Is there a brief description of the service available?
  • Who uses the service and why? We define who the users of the service are.
  • What does the service do for users, why and how?
  • What does the service user want to achieve with the service, and what needs might they have?

If the service is for a specific group of people, we clearly state from the start what requirements need to be met. We present everything clearly to users, whether it is visually or with written instructions.

4. Good services are accessible to all

Good service is easy to find, and people can use it without external assistance and without prejudice.

We ensure that the service is accessible, understandable, and usable to everyone who needs to use it, regardless of circumstances or abilities. We keep in mind that users are different and have different needs, but all should feel equally welcome and equally capable of using the service.

Why does this matter?

The city's service needs to work for everyone who needs to use it, regardless of language proficiency, finances, age, physical abilities, appearance, sexuality, gender identity, and/or status in other respects, according to the Human Rights Policy of Reykjavík City.

We all have the right to equal access to the City's service, and public institutions have a legal obligation to consider the needs of different groups.

Accessible service is better for everyone. For example, using simple words helps both people who are in a hurry and people who have difficulty reading.

How do we ensure that the service is accessible?

We ask ourselves:

  • How easy is it for service users to access the service? Did they encounter any barriers, direct or indirect (is the information available in multiple languages and easy to read)?
  • What groups, who need or want to use the service, seem to use it less than others? Can we reach these groups and ask about obstacles that might be standing in their way?
  • Is the space such that it easily guides users to the right place with as few obstacles and detours as possible? Use signs and arrows if needed.
  • Are we meeting accessibility standards, both in the space and in the media we use (websites, application forms, etc.)?

More about consistent services in service guideline 2.

5. Good services provide information about what's ahead

We guide our users by ensuring information and instructions are sufficient and clear throughout the entire process.

We make it clear what steps need to be taken and in what order. We ensure that decision-making regarding the service is transparent and well explained.

Why does this matter?

In all services, not only does meeting the basic service standards matter, but it's also important that the users understand what is happening at each step in the process, what they themselves need to contribute, what happens next, and how the process ends.

This way, users know what to expect from the service at all stages and can prepare for what comes next. Good information at all stages also reduces pressure on call centers and other frontline services.

How do we ensure that services provide information about what's ahead?

We ask ourselves:

  • What data or information needs to be available? For instance, is it necessary to provide a medical certificate or use digital credentials?
  • How long does it take to complete a certain step? Is it easy for the user to see where they are in the process?
  • What does it cost to use the service or part of it?
  • When can a response or decision be expected?
  • How is a decision made and what lies behind it?
  • What are the consequences of not completing a step or not submitting data? Does the user lose any rights or have to pay higher fees, for instance?

We clearly outline what is required of the user when they use the service and what the user can expect in return.

6. Good services occur in few and simple steps

The service user experiences the service as one smooth process.

We design the service so that the user can complete their task effortlessly in as few and simple steps as possible, without having to go through countless different service components.

If the resident encounters a problem, it should be easy to pause and then pick up where they left off to complete the task.

Why does this matter?

People have many other things to do with their time than to go between many places, repeat their case to multiple parties, or jump through all sorts of hoops to get their matters resolved.

Getting stuck in the process often comes as an unexpected and never a pleasant surprise. It costs the City both time and money to deal with mistakes that occur when the service works poorly or not at all. Making things more complicated than they need to be also undermines trust in the City.

How do we ensure that services occur in few and simple steps?

We ask ourselves:

  • Are there too many or too few steps?
  • Are the steps in a logical time order?
  • Where are the weak links or pain points in the service process?

We map all the steps of the service from the user's experience and examine them critically.

We ensure that there are no hitches, loose ends, broken links, or 404 pages. We examine where the user might get stuck in the process and how we can then help them get back on track.

7. Good services do not require knowledge of internal processes

Service users do not need to have special knowledge or understand city administration or internal processes to fully use the service.

Why does this matter?

How the service is organized or who does what in the system is usually of no concern to users. The service needs to work in such a way that the user does not have to worry about how internal processes and arrangements take place.

Equality is key. The quality and speed of public service should not depend on whether the user is familiar, has experience with the service, or has special knowledge.

How do we ensure that services do not require knowledge of internal processes?

We ask ourselves:

  • Do we refer to specialized terms, names of divisions and committees, or city planning when we talk to users?
  • Do users who have previously used the service or are familiar with internal processes get better or faster service than others?
  • Does the information about the service assume that users are familiar with the City's operations or have special knowledge?

8. Good services offer human assistance

We always make it easy for users to get help from a human when needed.

User demeanor is generally more positively inclined towards a service when it is easy to get help from a real human being.

Why does this matter?

All service, whether it is public service, digital service, or both, should facilitate communication and simplify the lives of users. Never lose sight that all services are for people, not technology.

How do we ensure that services offer human assistance?

We ask ourselves:

  • Are our interactions with users friendly, trustworthy, and clear?
  • Is it easy to find a phone number for the service?
  • Does someone answer the phone?
  • Is there good access to staff and their time, or is it too limited (for example, office hours, opening hours and more)

We scrutinize our information provision and our interactions with users.

We view all interactions as human and show understanding of circumstances. We are mindful that our service and the decisions we make about it affect real people and their lives.

9. Good services solve the right issues

We try to envision the end goal and enable the user to achieve what they intended without unnecessary delay.

Why does this matter?

People expect the service to simply work. It matters little to the user how well various aspects of the service are implemented if the process doesn't work as a whole and they can't complete their matter from start to finish.

How do we ensure that the service solves the right problems?

We ask ourselves:

  • What do our users want to achieve, and how is our service helping them reach that goal?
    • We ask our users what their problem or goal is when we are unsure.
  • How well equipped are we (the team/workplace/institution) to provide the complete service?
    • We limit our part to a reasonable extent of the overall service if we are not well equipped to provide it all.
  • Is the service satisfactory considering its defined purpose and the goals of the users? We compare the results of measurements to that.
  • Are the results of the service clearly communicated to the users? We justify decisions and provide guidance on the next steps if further assistance is needed.

More about purpose-driven services in service guideline 3

10. Good services adapt to changing needs

In good service, user experience is regularly evaluated and the service is reviewed and iterated based on this.

We listen to the experience and feedback from users of the service. We use measurements to learn about user needs and expectations and to identify opportunities for improvement. We iterate the service and monitor how changes affect the experience of users and staff.

Why does this matter?

User needs and expectations for service have changed and will continue to change. A service that remains unchanged will always become outdated, no matter how well it is implemented initially.

Service needs to be developed, not just maintained. We ensure manpower, knowledge, and technical flexibility to change and improve the service in line with user needs and expectations.

How do we ensure that services adapt to changing needs?

We ask ourselves:

  • Do we have a deliberate way of asking users about their experience and feedback of the service?
  • Are we processing and responding to the results of measurements and other data about the service?
    • We do not want to ask for feedback about our service without using that information and responding to it to the best of our ability.
  • Are the systems we use in constant development?
  • Are we learning from others? How are others, who provide similar services, both municipalities in Iceland and abroad, companies, and institutions, providing good service? Can we use their knowledge and experience to improve our service?

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