26 October 2011

Customer Services - Output specificaton

The New Support & Customer Services project is the grandly titled idea to contract out many of the first contacts with the council which will mean that they lose touch with why we are ringing. Mr Mustard thinks this is a completely stupid idea as you actually need to hear first hand what your customers think of you - even if you don't like the answer, and the message won't get lost.

There is the famous story of the British Army Commander who sent the message "Send reinforcements, we're going to advance." back to the Command Center, through a long chain of subordinates. When the message finally reached the Command Center, it had mutated to become -

"Send three and four-pence, we're going to a dance."

The reinforcements never arrived.

Here are the output specifications or some such tripe for customer services. You might want to skip straight to the end of this blog if you don't want to get bogged down in ludicrous detail; remember though that you are paying for this, probably handsomely to a consultant.

You might also like to think about going to the end of the blog and clicking the pdf/print button and printing this one out to make it easier to read.

click to enlarge; back to return

The above hogwash contains the line "substantially improved customer and resident experience of dealing with the council" at the same time as planning to outsource to some huge company. Will a Barnet resident have any experience of Barnet Council if they are put through to some call centre in Outer Mongolia or wherever it might happen to be? - no they won't. They will have an experience of the outsourcer. Will this save time or money? no, it won't. 

On page 6 it says "enable customers to resolve issues through a single point of contact within customer services" which is to totally misunderstand what residents ( customers, grr ) want. They want to ring someone who can fix their problem there and then whether it be housing benefit, adoption, council tax, litter, noise abatement, a parking fine, electoral role, a death etc etc and not speak to a call centre who won't know diddly squat.

Page 6 has another "design principle" which is "enable customers to only have to provide information once, which can be used to provide a range of related services" which worries Mr Mustard greatly that his data will be provided to every department and every contractor who deals with the council.

The final principle is to "provide a coherent brand, identity and ethos for customer services that builds a new relationship with the citizens of Barnet". People probably have enough relationship problems already without wanting one with their local council, or councillor; any takers for Cllr Coleman?; no, I thought not. Residents just want their bins emptied on time, no ethos; no brand, just a reasonable service, that is all.

4.2.3 - The partner will be responsible for all channels, except post ( Mr Mustard's emphasis ). So to defeat this stupid outsourcing we just have to go back to writing letters to the North London Business Park instead of phoning or emailing - and we keep the Royal Mail going at the same time.

Page 7 says that the provider will not deal with post fulfillment or scanning but customers' postal correspondence with other service providers should be visible to CSOI staff. Well that will depend won't it on what it is about. If it is about your care package then it shouldn't and if you mark your correspondence "Private & Confidential" then that shouldn't be scanned and available to anyone who can log into the computer. 

Page 7 envisages that "specialist teams handle more specialist enquiries grouped around customer type and episodes ( i.e. street based services, adults, businesses etc )". So if you ask anything even slightly difficult you will be passed on to a specialist team. Will you be kept holding on, yes if you can even get through. 

Ooh look even the specialists are planned not to cope "where enquiries cannot be dealt with, an automatic handover to the correct team" whoever that might be.

Looking at page 10 it is interesting to note that simple emails ( define?) will be answered by the outsourcer ( Mr Mustard wonders about his FOI requests which are simple ) but that the rest will be forwarded to services. Who is going to monitor that a reply is sent ? Will this 2 step dance make the council more efficient? No. 

Even the highest level complaints, the stage 3 complaints are going to be outsourced. The outsourcer won't have any idea how to reply. This is an idiotic idea.

On page 17 there is a key performance indicator (KPI). 75% of calls are to be answered within 20 seconds. That is so lax. 100% of calls should be answered within 5 rings would be a target worth aiming at. 

KPI - less than 10% abandoned calls. No, go for 0% abandoned calls.

KPI 85% of emails answered within 10 days - no, 99% of emails answered within 10 days would be a worthwhile target.

KPI 80% of Corporate Complaints responded to within SLA ( Service Level Agreement ) What is the point of having an SLA that is so pitifully feeble. Complaints nipped in the bud on day 1 stop you appearing in blogs. Jump to it. Richard Grice's name is on this specification - has he ever worked in industry? - he can't have. He is planning for failure. 

Page 22 - The average waiting time has been 1.57 minutes and so once privatised people can be instead kept waiting for an average of 10 minutes. A worse experience. Putting the customer last.

Page 25 - GovMetric. the council has procured GovMetric to deliver... The Partner shall provide this or a similar tool. Now the council spent good money on GovMetric in April 2011 ( DPR 1301 ) and yet it isn't going to be implemented until September 2011 and even then if the provider wants to use something else they can, which we have to pay for and throw in the bin the time & money invested in GovMetric.

Page 26 - Complex enquiries should be forwarded to Service Areas to investigate and respond to. Why does Mr Mustard get the feeling that the provider and the service areas are going to spend time arguing about what is complex and what isn't in order to avoid work or make money.

Page 27 - Customer Insight is underdeveloped and will be outsourced - goodbye Mr Markey? & his two assistants? This startling admission hasn't stopped Barnet Council from deciding to outsource pretty much everything at the same time as they don't know what customers want from the Council. Why does Mr Mustard think that any Insight produced by the provider in the future will somehow include that outsourcing is the best thing since sliced bread ( which is an abomination - use your local baker if you want to keep him ).

Page 29 - We will provide: A range of ways for you to access the service you need, in a way that is most convenient to you. Mr Mustard would like to pay for parking in case. What, he can't. Not convenient to the Council who come before you the citizen.

Page 34 - contains some shocking figures. 12% of all calls to the switchboard are abandoned. Why not simply put more people on the end of the telephone? Too simple for Barnet Council. They will need a £50,000 consultant's report to tell them what to do.
17% of all calls abandoned. Forget OneBarnet - just answer the phone and then satisfaction ratings will improve. It's so simple. Now that would be easy Council.

Finally I see from the appendix on page 36 that Engagement is going to take place on the new website, once it eventually plods up sometime in 2012, by dint of the following:

Discussions Forums ( don't put Cllr Gordon in charge of those as he prefers to subdue individuals rather than listen )
Facebook ( the page that Mrs Angry was barred from for 2 months perhaps - you can't engage if you can't access something )
Blogs - ooh competition - any blog issued by the council will simply be full of puff and any criticism will be moderated out of existence. The Famous Five Barnet Bloggers will be needed more than ever.

Sorry about the length of this posting - do print it out, it will make for easier reading.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


  1. Are you being paid by the inch, Mr Mustard? Very interesting though. Well worth rereadingas it is a very important issue.

    What a dreadful loss it will be if the walking wikipedia running the insight team is outsourced: unless, of course, he bounces back with the new company?

    I'd almost forgotten about Mr Chris Palmer trying to ban me from the LBB facebook page: dear dear. Must pay a visit.

  2. That must be why I am only getting £1.50 Mrs A for my services. Paid by the inch. No room even for a tattoo of a 5p piece ?

  3. Are you sure you want to advertise that fact, Mr Mustard? Maybe you should be bigging yourself up a bit more?

  4. Mrs Angry draws attention to a blogger who produces lengthy posts?

    Pot, black, Mrs A.

    Not, you will note, that this is meant as a criticism in any way. Both quality publishers, as are the others in the Famous Five.

    Mrs A twittered yesterday about the imminent loss of a senior officer, moving to Camden. We still await the details.

  5. Pot black Baarnett; how did you know I was playing snooker last night.

    Mrs A likes anatomical references as they liven up her nun-like existence. We also banter on twitter about such things and so the joke may be running in 2 places at once and the reader only sees half of it.

    The 6' man doesn't worry about remarks about short people so Mr Mustard doesn't worry about running himself down personally.

    You know what they say about men with big feet?
    .big shoes.

    Mine are a 13.

    As to officers moving the potential new council employer often have a trawl around looking for info on our officers and find it in our blogs; probably explains why we are stuck with some of them. The famous five barnet bloggers reference system is often reminiscent of the eurovision scoring method "nil point". Must make for interesting interview questions.

    Here is one that councils could use "How useful do you think the role of the local blogger is?" - now that would lead to a lot of sitting on the fence.

    Mr Mustard

  6. ... be fair, baarnett, The length of Mr Mustard's effort here is eye wateringly impressive. Mrs Angry can only look on, from behind her hand, over come with maidenly blogging admiration.

    Perhaps, Mr Mustard, we should start a campaign of sudden praise and fulsome compliments for our senior officers, in the hope that prospective employers will become keen to take them off our hands?


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