Client Satisfaction Survey - Final Report







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Client Satisfaction Survey - Final Report


[Based on ALRB Operations and Procedures since January 1st, 1998]
Prepared by Angus Reid Group, Inc. - May, 1999

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Client Satisfaction Survey |



The following results are highlights gleaned from the benchmark Client Satisfaction Review conducted among 411 Board clients by the Angus Reid Group on behalf of the Alberta Labour Relations Board.  As a benchmark study, the results presented in this report are anchors from which trends can be monitored over time as changes are implemented by the Board.

Overall Satisfaction

The table below presents two analytical measures for the operational areas assessed in this Client Satisfaction Review.   First, the overall satisfaction score represents clients' mean average ratings of their overall perception of the Board's performance of each operational area.   Second, the indexed satisfaction score presents the mean average ratings specifically of all individual attributes assessed in each operational area.

Comparatively, overall satisfaction is highest for the services provided by Board staff (7.0).   Satisfaction is also relatively higher for the Board's communications and voting processes (6.7 respectively).  Client satisfaction decreases in comparison with respect to the investigation and reporting process and hearings process (6.2, respectively).  Finally, client satisfaction is lowest for procedures involved with urgent matters (6.0) and for the applications process (5.9).

The indexed satisfaction ratings presented are all higher than the overall satisfaction ratings.  As noted in each individual section of this report, the difference in ratings suggests that client respondents, when generally rating their overall satisfaction, are potentially relating their overall satisfaction to attributes, factors or influences other than those specifically assessed which guide each operational area.   In other words, client respondents are associating external "baggage" with their overall satisfaction ratings which is not uncommon in client satisfaction studies which purposely exclude evaluations of decision-making processes within adjudicative bodies, such as the ALRB.

Operational Area Overall Satisfaction Indexed Satisfaction
Overall applications process 5.9 6.7
Overall procedures for urgent matters 6.0 6.4
Overall hearing process 6.2 6.8
Overall investigation and reporting process 6.2 6.6
Overall voting process 6.7 7.1
Overall service provided by Board staff 7.0 7.3

The operations and procedures in place for hearings and applications have the greatest impact upon overall satisfaction with the Board.  Also, the investigation and reporting process and Board information resources and communications impact overall client satisfaction, yet to a lesser degree.  The procedures related to urgent matters and the voting process have less impact upon the variance of overall client satisfaction with the Board's operations and procedures.  Thus, although critical weaknesses emerge in each of the operational areas assessed, the Board's focus should first point to weaknesses noted in the hearings and applications processes as these areas are most likely to drive overall satisfaction with the Board.

Hearings Process

A total of 509 hearings were conducted in the Board's 1998/99 fiscal year ending March 31st, 1999.  The weaknesses resulting from client evaluations of the factors involved with the hearings process point to timeliness of decisions, timeliness of scheduling, flexibility in scheduling and the clarity of policies and procedures.   Strengths, on the other hand, lie with the professional conduct of hearings and assistance from Board staff.

Further, seven-in-ten (71%) client respondents having appeared before the Board as an observer, client or counsel since January 1st, 1998 believe that allowing transcripts by a court reporter would be very useful in the hearing process.   However, only one-third of these clients report they would be willing and able to pay for the services of a court reporter.

Given that the timeliness of decisions is a key weakness in the Board's hearing process, it is interesting to note that the plurality of client respondents (46%) prefers the format of decisions to take the form of a formal decisions with reasons.   However, almost four-in-ten (38%) client respondents would prefer an oral decision, followed by a letter.

Applications Process

Noted factors of weakness in the applications process are related to the timeliness of processing applications, the clarity of policies and procedures, and the quality of the content of applications accepted by the Board.   Strengths of the Board's applications process focus on the letters of correspondence from the Board during the applications process.

The majority (69%) of client respondents having submitted or been served with an applications since January 1st, 1998 report that letters acknowledging applications remain consistent with the Board procedures that follow either always or most of the time.

Investigation and Reporting Process

The Board currently conducts investigations for all certification and revocation applications, and for others as directed or required.   Client assessments of the key factors guiding the investigation and reporting process reveal that the impartiality of investigation reports, the thoroughness of the investigation, the consistency of the investigation and reporting process, as well as the quality of the content of reports are all weaknesses in the investigation and reporting chain of processes.  Conversely, the strengths which surface encompass Board Officer's knowledge of issues under investigation and the timeliness of receipt of Board Officers' reports.

Although client respondents having been involved with an investigation report since January 1st, 1998 consider reports to be delivered in a timely manner, overall, they request an average of 8.6 working days to review a Board Officer's report prior to a scheduled hearing.  Client expectations for timely procedures for the processing of applications and for hearings are notably high given that clients also seek thorough, high quality investigation reports as well as almost two weeks with the report prior to a scheduled hearing.  In addition, client respondents report that more investigations, if possible, be conducted primarily with unfair labour practice complaints.

Information Resources and Communications

Union clients and lawyers are using the Board's information resources more than employer clients.  Use of the Information Bulletins and the Guide to Alberta Labour Relations Laws are used by a higher proportion of clients in comparison to other resources assessed.  As a benchmark, one-third of clients have visited the Board's website since January 1st, 1998, however, more than eight-in-ten (83%) clients currently have access to the Internet at work.

The highest value placed on specific information resources stems from lawyers clearly appreciating the Practitioners' Manual and Decision Index. Client respondents also place high value on the Information Bulletins available - widely used and highly valued.

In addition, assessments are consistently positive for Board staff providing information about the policies and procedures in each operational area, where required - an essential component of the Board's ongoing communications with its clients.

Urgent Matters

A total of 19 urgent matters were concluded in the 1998/99 fiscal year. Weaknesses surfacing in the procedures for urgent matters point to the impartiality of processing urgent matters, the timeliness of processing urgent matters and the clarity of policies and procedures. Strengths associated with procedures for urgent matters rest with assistance from Board staff in providing information related to urgent matters and the availability of Board Members.

Voting Process

A total of 44 supervised strike and lockout votes and four Board conducted proposal votes were held during the Board's 1998/99 fiscal year. In addition, the Board conducted 116 representation votes in certification and revocation applications. Client evaluations of the Board's voting process reveal that the timeliness of certification votes, the professional supervision of strike votes and the adherence to policies surrounding voter eligibility are weaknesses requiring attention. Client expectations are somewhat conflicting given that they wish to have an average of 8.6 working days to review an investigation report, they indicate a desire for a more thorough report, yet want more timely certification votes and hearings. Accessible voting locations, the use of simple language on vote ballots, overseeing the voting process and the clarity of policies and procedures, however, result as strengths in this operational area.

Overseeing the polling stations may be classified as a critical strength of the Board's voting process. Nevertheless, one-half (50%) of client respondents having been involved in a labour relations voting process since January 1st, 1998 believe that Deputy Returning Officers (DROS) are fully capable to oversee the voting process, compared to more than four-in-ten (41 %) who believe that only Board Officers should oversee the conduct of votes. Therefore, utilizing Board Officers more often than in the past to oversee the conduct of votes could potentially improve satisfaction with this factor. Conversely, should only DROs be utilized to oversee the process, satisfaction with this factor could decline.


The Board's 1998/99 Annual Report reveals that a total of 161 complaints were settled with Officer involvement. The plurality (38%) of client respondents perceive Board Officers to be mediating disputes "about the right amount of time", compared to three-in-ten (28%) who feel they are mediating disputes "less often than they should be" and to a smaller proportion who believe they are mediating disputes "more often than they should be". An additional two-in-ten client respondents were unable to respond either because they are unaware of the mediation process (12%) or because they are undecided (8%).

Client respondents would be most comfortable with an external professional mediator to mediate a dispute related to an active file before the Board. However, only one-half of these clients are willing to pay for external services. Having a Board Officer, Chair or Vice Chair mediate a dispute is accepted by the majority of client respondents, as is appointing a Member of the Board - but to a lesser degree of comfort.

Most (59%) client respondents having been involved with mediation since January 1st, 1998 report that mediation was effective, primarily due to the impartiality at play and the fact that a resolution was reached. Four-in-ten (39%) clients, however, perceive mediation to have been ineffective because the process was impartial and given that the opposing sides did not reach a settlement. Inconsistencies appear to occur in mediation with respect to impartiality.

Services Provided by Board Staff

Weaknesses in services provided by Board staff concern impartiality and efficiency. Strengths of the Board staff lie mainly with the level of professionalism conveyed and the courteous approach to serving client needs. Throughout the evaluations of each operational area, Board staff was also positively acknowledged for responding to inquiries and providing information when required regarding the policies and procedures governing each process.


Client expectations will typically always exceed performance measures given to organizations. To this end, the results of this study must be taken in context of how to bridge the gap between client expectations and the Board's performance where possible and/or, alternatively, how to better manage client expectations within the realistic framework of the Board's operations and procedures.

As the initial measurement of client satisfaction taken by the Alberta Labour Relations Board, clients send clear messages to the Board in terms of areas wherein the Board is performing well - professionalism and staff assistance, and areas for improvement impartiality and timeliness.

The most intangible theme resulting in areas for improvement lies with impartiality. In summary, this factor is extremely important to clients, yet the Board is faced with a notable gap in meeting client expectations for this service attribute. The gaps revealed in this study are consistently high for impartiality which is noted spontaneously by client respondents as the area which most commonly influences effective and ineffective mediation. Impartiality is also spontaneously tabled by client respondents as a recommended improvement to operations and procedures - second only to suggesting that processes become more user-friendly. The definition of impartiality was not explicitly explored during this study, and the Board may find it useful to further investigate the meaning or situational context underlying perceptions of impartiality in each of the operational areas assessed: service provided by Board staff; investigation reports; mediation; and, urgent matters. Impartiality, as clients perceive, could - as one hypothesis -- potentially relate to decisions more than to the operational procedures evaluated.

Prioritizing Board efforts to improve particular components of its operations and procedures must be implemented. Based on the analyses conducted, overall satisfaction with the Board's operations and procedures are strongly associated with the hearings and applications processes. The key weaknesses revealed in each of these two operational areas should take precedence over addressing weaknesses noted in other operational areas.

Further, the study results reveal competing interests in terms of the weaknesses which emerge in certain operational areas. First, client respondents point to the timeliness of decisions in the hearings process as a key weakness. However, the plurality would prefer a formal decision with reasons which can only be prepared by the four Vice-Chairs or Chair (four at the time of interviewing).



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