WMO | Public Weather Services (PWS)
Many aspects of the development and evolution of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) have been driven primarily by user demand for services, and the use by NMHSs of advances in meteorological science and scientific technology for product design and service delivery. It is essential therefore, that public weather services programmes be clearly seen as being dedicated to the service of the public, and based on a complete understanding of, and response to user requirements if they are to retain validity, credibility and public and political support.
It is therefore important to consider that any development of NMHSs through their public weather services, should be undertaken in response to the real and stated needs of the user community, and not as an end in itself. To ascertain the requirements of users is an on-going task requiring continuous communication and consultation, since these requirements change over time.
The NMHSs commitment to serve users
User focus should begin with consideration of the end-use application of any product that is being developed. This is an external focus that provides an understanding and insights on user needs and how those needs are changing. In turn, this understanding informs and directs the internal focus on programmes, activities and resources needed to meet those needs.
Service to users represents the main purpose for the existence of public weather services. Delivery of effective services needs an organisation-wide commitment involving the NMS leadership, technical systems and research, management and those directly involved in service delivery.
The difference between products and services
The pursuit of effective public weather services must start with a clear differentiation between products and services. A product originating from the NMHS could be current weather, short-range forecasts, medium-range forecasts, monthly or seasonal forecasts, climate information and environmental information. The packaging, adding-value and delivery of this product through the media, mail, telephone, fax, computer services or the Internet constitute services. From these simple definitions it can be seen that improving a product does not automatically lead to service improvement. Also, improved services may not be of much use if they are not based on the most accurate and complete products available.
The importance of User Focus
The NMHS management and staff need to be aware of the full range of benefits to be derived from a user-focused approach. The following are some of the reasons why user focus is so important:
Public weather services user groups
Users of public weather services span a broad spectrum from emergency management agencies, to the person who follows the weather forecast to decide on whether to take along an umbrella on the way to work. The NMHS must seek to know the users of its information. Generally, they may be divided into four main groups as follows:
Liaison with the user
The acceptance of the NMHS products by the public and other users depends almost exclusively on the quality of its services. Effective, quality service will contribute to welcome improvements in public image and profile, as well as improved status and enhanced visibility of the NMHS. The criteria to check service quality are composed of three strongly related parts:
How to assess user requirements, satisfaction and perception
The starting point should be the evaluation of the current services. Further evaluations may be conducted as the need arises and depending on which assessment approach is utilized. The following lists a number of techniques that can be applied:
Types of services
Once user requirements are known, the technical department of the NMHS will deal with what is required to produce the new products and services, within the limits of the NMHS resources and capabilities. The staff responsible for public weather services activities will decide on the type, timing, frequency, means of dissemination and presentation format of the services to be offered, and coordinate with the technical departments concerned, to ensure that the proposed services can be realistically delivered with the available resources.
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