Three reasons why the UK public sector leads on customer service
Change the story on customer service! Front line service is being delivered by hard pressed staff, with thousands of moments of truth each day across local authorities, and the health service. For too long the story about the public sector has been about lack of customer focus. Here are three reasons why the UK public sector are in many respects leaders in customer service
1. It’s what they do. The clue is in the name, the public sector exists to serve the public – all of them. Go into the lobby of any hospital or local authority on a Monday morning and it will be busy with members of the public looking for help, answers and support. Local authorities and the health service can’t choose their customers, segment the market, provide different levels of service based on income. They have serve all of the public
2. First port of call. When something happens for many people the first point of contact is the local council or health service. Sometimes the issue is not managed by the local authority/NHS. Members of the public are often unaware of the changes in the public sector landscape until they need that service and find it has been “consolidated” and is now a contact centre or based in a location several miles away.
3. Public service. Most local public sector employees have a strong sense of public service. They want to help the public. And so when someone presents the receptionist with a problem the first thought is about helping that person. That is the essence of public service and what makes the UK public sector something to be valued and respected.
It is just that local authorities do not have the same drivers as a profit driven organisation. It means they sometimes react differently. Local authorities are wrestling with a changing role, in which they provide a whole range of services and there is no incentive to “cross-sell” services or provide a joined-up service across the local authority. This means things fall through the gaps. Crucially the communication to the end “customer” – residents or businesses can sometimes be neglected.
The timely provision of information is important in mission critical situations. Where someone’s health and well being is under threat, there is razor like focus. But what about all the day to day routine communications that are not in themselves mission critical? The truth is sometimes they are not being brought together. The task becomes the focus. The customer communication secondary.
The “over-communication” we have become used to from online shopping deliveries where you can track your delivery, means we have become used to receiving instant feedback. Even if that feedback is robotic and driven by scripts. It is also not very flexible in the event you change your mind about the detail of your order. Nevertheless the workflow and integration means the system works most of the time. That process driven capability is something the public sector can learn from. The critical bit is to ensure the human touch is not lost. Because it is the human element – the person on the end of the line we crave and value at times of crisis.