I came across this photo of a letter on Facebook. For the purposes of this post I’m going to assume that it is a real letter. If it is, I think the author has a wicked sense of humour but I’ve also give a little thought to what caused this letter to be written. For me it comes down to two things.
The first is that this is a perfect example of process being allowed to become master over good customer service. Particularly where the process is a poor or restrictive one it is SO important that good customer service is the master (and ideally the process is changed). In this example, a restrictive process allowed good customer service to be trampled on. In turn, this created more work for the company in repairing the damage than they would have incurred in allowing good customer service to be master in the first place.
The second is that the best way to allow good customer service to be master over poor or restrictive process is to enable those delivering both to make decisions; the right decisions. In this example, the staff dealing with this were clearly not allowed to make the right decision. If you delegate authority to make decisions to those responsible for delivering them they are very likely to make the right, or at least, pragmatic decisions that lead to good customer service. Most people want to give good customer service and will do when they are ALLOWED to. Michael Heppell (
@MichaelHeppell) talks about this in his excellent book http://www.amazon.co.uk/Five-Star-Service-Exceptional-Customer/dp/0273734385
So my two lessons on this letter:
- Always look at how to allow good customer service to be the master and change processes that jeopardise this.
- Make sure those delivering service are given the authority to make the right decision.
Think how different that letter would have been if these two lessons had been followed?
When you try and find out how much money the public sector spends each year on consultants it’s difficult to get to an accurate figure but it is safe to say that it is many billions of pounds.
I’ve used consultants many times in my career and have had some good experiences and some horrific experiences but mostly experiences that left me thinking….I could have done that…..and to a better standard. And in many cases I knew colleagues in my own organisation or other organisations who had the skills and expertise that I could have used.
But there is often a desire to use consultants in large public sector organisations due to:
- lack of capacity;
- lack of trust or confidence in the answer given by the organisation’s own experts; or
- the organisation wants to achieve a certain outcome and wants to outsource the ownership for the suggestion to someone else.
As part of my career travels I spent some time working for the National Centre for Volunteering (now Volunteering England) and became acquainted with the concept of time banks where volunteers would pledge time and bank this. Others (who have also banked their time) can withdraw the time of a volunteer on a quid pro quo basis. So, for example, someone could pledge an hour’s worth of gardening in return for an hour’s worth of bricklaying.
So what do time banks have to do with free consultancy in the public sector?
I think there is a massive wealth of knowledge and experience in the public sector that could be “banked” and withdrawn at little or no cost to the participating organisations. There is potentially billions of pounds that could be saved and reinvested in protecting front line services. This could work within and across public sector organisations. So I could bank an hour of my strategy development time in return for an hour of policy development. As well as time, the bank could include intellectual property. How many times has the public sector paid consultants to produce the same toolkit?!
I think it would need:
- Organisations (and individuals) to commit
- Some rules of engagement
- A simple system for managing banking of time and its withdrawal
- Some kind of rating for the consultancy delivered in this way – it should be self monitoring
- Some seed funding to make it happen
I really think there is something worth developing here and would welcome feedback on the idea – positive or challenging – so I can start to get some meat on the bones. Would also welcome anyone who is interested in helping me develop this.
Welcome to my blog which is nominally about Bright Ideas in the public sector (and local government in particular) in all their forms and how they can be used to deliver services better.
I will be talking about Bright Ideas that I have come up with (fingers crossed) and sharing those of others. I am keen to share as much good practice as possible and would love to have contributions from like minded souls who are focused on using intellectual capital to improve services to public sector customers.
Bright Ideas are great but what’s the point if they don’t make things better. Making things better is why I work in the public sector anyway.
Important Terms and Conditions! I am Director of Information and Technology (Chief Information Officer) for Nottingham City Council but all of the comments and thoughts on this blog are my own alone and do not represent the views of anyone else other than me. So if they suck, it’s my fault.