Customer Service Excellence report 2023

Organisation/Service Assessed: Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC)

Prepared By: Lorna Bainbridge, Assessor

Report Type: Review 3 (C3)

Project Number: 11128005408

Document Review Date: 7th Jun 2023

Evidence Gathering Activity Date: 29th Jun 2023

Recommend Certification



  1.  Introduction and Background
  2.  Methodology
  3.  Summary of Strengths
  4.  Areas For Continuous Improvement



1. Introduction and Background

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (referred to as the IOPC, or Organisation throughout the report) oversee the police complaints system in England and Wales and makes decisions entirely independently of the police and government. Whilst the police forces across the Country deal with the majority of complaints from the public, the IOPC investigates the most serious matters, including deaths following police contact and undertakes reviews from people (service users) who are dissatisfied with the way the police have treated them, or the outcome of an investigation. The IOPC sets and monitors the standards by which complaints should be handled.

IOPC's mission is 'improving policing by independent oversight of police complaints, holding police to account and ensuring learning effects change'.

The vision is that 'everyone is able to have trust and confidence in the police'.

The vision and mission are underpinned by a set of core values developed by staff and underpin how the services are delivered to service users and stakeholders. The values are, Seeking Truth, Being Inclusive, Empowering People, Being Tenacious and Making a Difference.

The following four strategic objectives have been identified for the forthcoming years:

  • people know about the complaints system and are confident to use it,
  • the complaints system delivers evidence-based, fair outcomes which hold police to account,
  • our evidence and influence improve policing,
  • an organisation that delivers high performance.

The IOPC continue to use the Customer Service Excellence (CSE) Standard as a framework to contribute to achieving its priorities.
This was a three-year certification assessment against the CSE Standard. The assessment considered both the internal service user (staff) and the external service user.

2. Methodology

The Organisation was initially certificated with the CSE Standard in March 2020 and has successfully undertaken the first and second-year annual reviews. This three-year recertification assessment provided the opportunity to review the development and improvements to the service year over the past year. In preparation for the assessment, the Assessor met with key members of the Quality and Service Improvement (QSI) team to review the date and logistics for the review. Subsequently, liaison continued to take place with the assigned coordinators.

The coordinators completed the Assessment Services' Self-Assessment App, cross-referencing more than 30 storyboards to demonstrate how the 57 elements of the Standard were met. In addition, access was provided to documentary evidence, including the Annual Report 2021/22, Impact Report 2020/21, Strategic Plan 2023/27, Business Plan 2022/23, Service Standards, Performance Framework, Unitary Board Meetings, Oversight Newsletter, Surveys, Compliments and Complaints Processes, and Public Perceptions Tracker, etc. In addition, the coordinators presented additional evidence throughout the interview collection, including the revised Communications and Involvement Strategy 2023/27, draft surveys, etc.

The Assessor spent three days interviewing 62 staff (senior leaders, managers, and delivery - internal and external) via Microsoft Teams. In addition, three stakeholders were interviewed.

Verbal feedback was provided to members of the QSI team, indicating the outcome of the assessment, areas of strength recognised as Compliance Plus and those areas to consider for continuous improvement. Three elements were found to be Partially Compliant, which the IOPC is encouraged to address in the forthcoming year.

The following report provides a summary of the areas of strength and those recommended for continuous improvement in the context of both internal and external users.

3. Summary of Strengths

Sections: 1.1.3, 2.1.1, 2.1.2, 2.1.5, 2.1.6, 2.2.1, 2.2.4, 2.2.5, 4.2.4

The following elements were awarded Compliance Plus following the three-year recertification assessment. Reference to the element/s is made in brackets.

A key priority of the IOPC is to be an inclusive organisation, with services being available and accessible to everybody irrespective of background, gender, age, race, etc. To contribute to this ambition, extensive work takes place to identify disadvantaged and hard-to-reach groups. The most recent examples include race discrimination and violence against women and girls; research, consultation, and engagement activities have been undertaken to understand further the challenges and issues these groups face. The findings and actions to address the needs and preferences are subsequently published. At an operational level, staff explained how they identify service users at risk, for example, suicidal, experiencing mental health issues, struggling to cope, etc., and, as a result, quickly identify appropriate action to be taken. For example, they are signposting to other organisations or agencies to provide professional support, increasing communications, or providing access to a Family Liaison Manager.

Similarly, individuals/ groups of internal service users that are disadvantaged/ hard-to-reach are identified, and solutions are put in place, for example, support for those that are Neurodivergent, health and wellbeing issues and work-life balance challenges. (1.1.3)

The Impact Report 2020/21, Strategic Plan 2023/27, and Business Plan 2022/23 indicate that the service user is firmly at the heart of the way the IOPC operates. This is supported by the Service Standards, which are clearly visible on the website. The priorities of the Organisation are communicated to staff through a range of all-staff activities. The behaviours of senior leaders are observed by staff, and they confirmed that senior leaders advocate for the service users and behave in line with the core values, which are service user focused. In addition, staff explained that the different areas of the business work collaboratively to provide a positive service user experience. All interviewees confirmed that it was a great place to work, as they were well supported and equipped to deliver the service/s and their needs and preferences were taken into consideration. (2.1.1)

Consultation and involvement are integral across the IOPC. Opportunities are taken to gain feedback from all service users to gain insight, inform policy and strategy, and prioritise service improvement activity. At the Organisation level, the most recent work concerning race discrimination and violence against women and girls are just two thematic examples whereby feedback from service users has influenced future service delivery approaches. The case studies presented by different areas of the Organisation further demonstrate that working with service users, including Police Forces and the Professional Standards Departments, informs future strategies and policies in terms of the way the police forces operate, as well as the IOPC. (2.1.2)

The IOPC continues to respond positively to the feedback gained from external inspections and audits, including the Information Commissioner's Audit. Consequently, robust policies and procedures are in place to protect service users' privacy in face-to-face discussions and in the transfer and storage of personal information. In addition, formal, internal audits further contribute to the protection of individuals' personal data. Key resources are invested in ensuring the information is protected, such as Information Asset Owners and a Data Protection Impact Assessment Team. All staff are mandated to complete data protection and freedom of information, record management training and that relating to counter-fraud to ensure a good understanding of the systems and processes the IOPC work towards and upholds. (2.1.5)

Interviewees explained how leaders and managers do not micro-manage and staff are trusted and empowered to make decisions daily to provide service users with a positive experience. The introduction of hybrid working, which has been embraced by many over the past year, has further embedded trust and confidence across the Organisation as leaders and managers have learnt effective ways of managing remote working. Staff are encouraged to lead on continuous improvement initiatives, evidenced through the broad range of storyboards submitted as evidence for the three-year recertification assessment and subsequent conversations whereby individuals explained the impact and next steps for the work undertaken. In addition, front-line staff explained how they can get involved in staff network forums and contribute ideas to influence improvements.

Following the surveys and network forums, staff recognised that their voice was heard, as senior leaders actively communicated the outcome/sand action to be taken because of their feedback. (2.1.6, 2.2.4)

When recruiting and selecting new employees, there is a strong bias towards an individual's experience in a customer-facing role and how they will contribute to the service user experience. Subsequently, the induction is planned well and, dependent upon the role, focuses on the external/ internal service user. The Organisation has invested in an online learning and development platform - The Bridge. It provides staff with access to a range of mandatory and optional developmental activities, enabling them to acquire further knowledge and understanding in relation to being service user focused. A high proportion of interviewees had and continue to have opportunities to further their careers, gain promotion, and/ or specialise in a specific sector within the Organisation. (2.2.1)

Interviewees genuinely felt valued and appreciated for their contribution to the Organisation over the past year. This was due to the ongoing support from leaders and managers to balance their work and personal life and support their health and wellbeing. Many staff referred to the Employee Assistance Programme and the benefits gained. In addition, reference was made to individuals and teams being recognised through Awards, Cheers for Peers, which continues to be published via the monthly Newsround and / or through senior leaders' shout-outs throughout full staff and team meetings. The Organisation has recently introduced 'Now and Next' events in each office, recognising the work of individuals and teams. Informal thanks and praise are also recognised and valued as individuals receive feedback upon completion of good work/ delivery of exemplary service, etc. (2.2.5)

During the past year, the IOPC has made 180 learning recommendations aimed at improving policing, including changes to policy, guidance, and training. Since 2007, Learning the Lessons magazines have been published to share learning from investigations and reviews. Each issue contains case studies and reflective questions for policymakers, officers, and policing staff to proactively consider how to prevent similar incidents from occurring in their force. The magazines also include contributions from external organisations, which helps highlight work happening nationally to support our learning work. The magazine is shared with over 1,500 stakeholders, including police complaint handlers, and learning and development leads. In addition, two learning sessions for staff to hear from the external contributors to the magazine and increase their understanding of the issues were hosted. Internally, staff share their knowledge and experience with others to contribute to their learning and ways of working with service users. (4.2.4)

There was evidence of several emerging strengths, for example:

The review of the questions posed throughout the surveys has resulted in service users indicating whether they believe they are treated fairly. Whilst this has always been included in the Service Standards, there was no measurement. As a result, this will be of interest throughout the first-year annual review in 2024. This is due to the Organisation focusing on ensuring the service/s are accessible to everyone irrespective of their background, age, gender, race, etc. (2.1.4)

The DRIVE programme allows all staff to review performance against objectives, targets, and core values and identify additional learning and development needs. This was in the early stages of implementation in 2022, and whilst staff confirmed that the conversations with their respective line manager were effective throughout the three-year recertification assessment, the performance review against the values should become more embedded. (2.2.3)

A focus of the IOPC is to awareness of the purpose and range of services available, as well as ensuring that the information provided to service users is accessible and understandable, current, accurate and complete. As a result, work continues across the Organisation to improve the range, content, and quality of verbal, published and web-based information. The website is going through a major refresh to ensure it is easy to navigate and the information is easily accessible and understandable. The website's launch is planned for July 2023, and as a result, these elements may be awarded Compliance Plus. (3.2.2, 3.2.3, 3.2.4)

4. Areas For Continuous Improvement

Sections: 4.1.2, 5.3.2, 5.3.3, 1.1.1, 1.1.2, 1.2.1, 2.1.4, 4.2.3, 3.2.2, 3.2.4, 2.2.1

As the Organisation recognised within the self-assessment, the following elements were awarded Partial Compliance. Reference is made to the element in brackets.

The performance against standards and targets, including timeliness and quality of service, is monitored, and evaluated every month at a minimum. This is captured in a report which clearly indicates the performance against the standard or target, whether this has improved or decreased against the previous month's performance and RAG (red, amber, green) rated. This is published via the website and can be viewed by stakeholders, including service users. At the time of the three-year recertification, the IOPC were not meeting all the targets. Consequently, consideration should be made to how performance can be improved. (4.1.2, 5.3.2)

An additional Partial Compliance was identified on this occasion as the Organisation currently undertakes minimal benchmarking of timeliness and quality of service against other organisations or sectors. As a result, consideration should be made to comparing the performance of timeliness and quality of service against other industry sector contact centres, investigatory services, etc. This may identify other areas to consider for further improvement. (5.3.3)

The following areas of the Customer Excellence Standard are met. However, consideration could be made to making further improvements. Reference to the elements is made in brackets.

Staff proactively identify the needs and preferences of service users in relation to the methods used to communicate with and provide information, for example, face-to-face, email, telephone, letter, etc. It is also recognised that the channel adopted may change throughout the service. There was evidence of some areas developing personas to gain a real understanding of the needs and preferences of service groups. As a result, consideration could be made to encouraging other areas to adopt this approach to gain a full understanding of the characteristics, needs and preferences of service users, which may contribute to improving the design of services in the future. (1.1.1, 1.1.2)

Consultation and involvement of service users are integral to gaining feedback from service users, which informs improvements/ changes. Service users are advised of the action taken due to their feedback through the website, Learning the Lessons, reports, and meetings. However, stakeholders referred to increasing the communication of 'You Said, We Did' to demonstrate that there was a listening culture and action was taken/ or not taken due to their involvement. (1.2.1)

The Organisation continues to aim to ensure everyone has access to the services and are treated fairly. Following the second-year review, the Assessor recommended that consideration could be made to reviewing the questions within the satisfaction surveys to establish whether service users believe they are treated fairly, and staff are polite and friendly. The latter, staff being polite and friendly, has been included. IOPC is encouraged to establish a method of measuring whether service users believe they are treated fairly. This would be a further measure which may influence improvements. (2.1.4)

Whilst several staff explained benchmarking activities, this tended to be in relation to the internal services / support provided to the internal service user because of the outcome of the Pulse Survey. In the future, consideration could be made to encouraging other areas to benchmark services and performance against other organisations and agencies to identify best practice and inform changes. (4.2.3)

To ensure a quality service is delivered in some areas of the Organisation, dip sampling has been implemented, which addresses many functions. For example, systems and processes are being implemented correctly, information is current, accurate and meaningful, reports meet the standard, telephone conversations demonstrate empathy, and staff are polite and friendly, etc. This is good practice, and as a result, consideration could be made to appropriate areas being subject to different quality assurance activities, including dip sampling. (3.2.2, 3.2.4)

Learning and development is a key strength of the IOPC, and, as a result, staff feel they are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to deliver the service. One suggestion made to the Assessor throughout the recertification assessment was for IOPC to utilise Subject Matter Experts from within service user organisations,