Imaginist35’s Weblog

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The multi-faceted customer

Customer service is supposed to be the single most important driver in public sector organisations.

The customer is, of course, all of you, as citizens, tax-payers and consumers of services. Notice that this means you are actually wearing 3 hats – 4 if you include how you interact with government in your business roles. So we are not dealing with a simple relationship here.

For example: let’s take waste management – if I ask you what you want as a consumer, it would be excellent service. As a tax-payer, you’ll say; but not at the cost of extra taxes. As a citizen, you will probably say: do something about recycling and sustainable energy.

Or how about care for the elderly? As a consumer, perhaps with elderly parents, you’ll want care provision to be much better than it is today. As a tax payer you’ll say: but I don’t want to have to pay for all those other people going into care homes. As a citizen, you’ll say: I am not happy about what happened to my next-door neighbour.

So who the ‘customer’ is and what they want is quite complex. And one of the problems is that first Thatcher, then Blair oversimplified it – most of the changes in government policy since the 80s have focused on the citizen as consumer and ignored our role as tax-payers and citizens. So choice of hospital is fine except it doesn’t translate into a good emergency service when we – or someone we know -needs it.

What that has done is:
– Raised our appetite as consumers for personalised service, where and when we want it
– Increased the cost of providing these services at a time when we would like to pay less
– Ignored our concerns for the interest of our community – people we identify with – as well as ourselves
– And therefore it has ignored the possibility that we would be prepared to ‘put up with’ lower standards of service in some things if we could count on other aspects being there when we needed them.

Overall the shift in focus to consumer has not improved our customer experience. So what would make us more satisfied? Recognising the complexity and subtleties of our multiple roles and attitudes and giving us and our communities what is important, at a cost we agree with.

It would be interesting to explore whether this ‘multi-faceted customer’ model could be used by the private sector to inform how companies can improve customer experience.

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May 18, 2009 - Posted by | business change management, project and programme management | , , , , , , ,

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