By Grace Wandera
Once again, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) is planning to mark the month-long taxpayers’ celebrations in the traditional month of October. A look at this year’s theme “Leaving no one behind” provokes some interesting thoughts.
Given that the payment of taxes is a civic responsibility of every citizen, one is curious to enquire on who can be left behind. This is by no means a rhetorical question. The framers of the Constitution of Kenya, which was promulgated in 2010, anticipated this question when they rightfully placed the citizen at the centre of governance. The Constitution acknowledges patriotism, national unity, sharing and devolution of power, the rule of law, democracy and participation of the people as national values and principles of governance. Consequently, the Constitution has empowered citizens to increasingly demand for greater transparency and accountability from public institutions.
But perhaps the most consequential provision in our context is in Article 232(1) (d) and (f) which stipulate the Values and Principles of Public Service including “involvement of the people in the process of policy making and transparency and provision to the public of timely, accurate information”. This calls for adoption of customer-led strategies to enhance service delivery in the public sector.
An analysis of the Customer journey over the years indicates that the taxpayer is increasingly demanding excellent and convenient service delivery, and education on new tax policies and processes. Similarly, adoption of technology empowers customers with the ability to choose their preferred service platform improving the quality of service and convenience.
This is what has informed the development of the KRA Service Excellence Programme that promotes the adoption of a multi-channelled, but cost optimal, approach to customer service delivery.
KRA’s Corporate Stakeholder Engagement Model, adopted in 2015, in one such approach. The engagement model provides a single point of contact for corporate stakeholders, accentuating KRA’s commitment to facilitating efficient resolution of stakeholder concerns.
However, this approach comes with its fair share of challenges. First, public organisations don’t operate in isolation, meaning, there has to be greater coordination efforts between various partner and government engagements required to achieve desired results. Second, tax laws are generally considered complex implying varying interpretations among various stakeholders leading to lengthy litigations and disputes resolution processes. Nevertheless, the good news is that all these challenges are surmountable.
It is also important to note that, service delivery to be robust and meaningful, stakeholder engagements must involve citizens affected by the issues, especially the most strategic. For KRA, this includes strengthening the industry players’ voices in tax policy processes as well as adding authenticity and momentum to stakeholder engagements to the highest levels possible.
Stakeholder engagements should also involve both the service providers and the user community. KRA achieves this by sharing information with relevant government actors and officials to help prepare its proposals, and by bringing relevant industry players such as Business Member Organisations or professional associations as the case may be. This helps to build a consensus towards resolving issues and encourages stakeholders to become champions for reforms.
Tax literacy is another key element in championing inclusion. Knowledge gaps and low literacy levels among the customers lead to negative attitude and low willingness to pay taxes, due to failure of understanding on the benefits of taxation. Over time, KRA customer engagement has been scaled up through execution and dissemination of information to customers. Communication campaigns have been conducted on various tax heads targeting different taxpayers segments with relevant information regarding their compliance status. There has also been concerted customer communication efforts that have been driven through digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, You-tube and LinkedIn.
Another critical aspect in enhancing customer inclusion and satisfaction is complaints management. Handling complaints appropriately is key in protecting KRA’s reputation and promoting stakeholders’ trust. Initially, complaints management was not well coordinated and there existed disparate and several islands of efficiency. To address this, a corporate complaints management framework was formulated, with the aim of providing a single point of complaint collection, reporting and a standardized criterion for handling complaints from all the touch points. This provided a structure for receiving, registering, consolidating, tracking, escalating, resolving, closing and archiving complaints data. This has led to the efficient and effective handling of all complaints.
Nonetheless, there is no magic wand in creating a delighted taxpayer. Customer engagement is a process. Organisations must re-design their approaches to fit customer priorities. In addition, it is crucial to take advantage of technology and constantly innovate for engagements to be meaningful and add business value.
Eventually, service excellence is best achieved by looking at customers’ experiences through their eyes, identifying the pain points and working towards rectifying them. A customer’s journey begins long before they seek services. It begins with what they feel when they interact with a brand, and this continues as they seek services, interacting with employees, processes and systems of the organization and what happens thereafter.
At KRA, we remain committed to achieving our customer promise of making tax compliance a delightful and convenient experience. We shall continue to do this by enhancing professionalism, embracing modern technologies and delivering customer-focus services.
(The Writer is the Deputy Commissioner, Marketing and Communication at the Kenya Revenue Authority. Grace.Wandera@kra.go.ke)