22 February 2012

(oh) Dear Bill

apologies if this is not the correct Bill Murphy
Mr Mustard has been intending to write this blog since December but he was reliant upon the customer services department that Bill used to run, and very surprisingly, they let Mr Mustard down.

Firstly a new departure. One of Mr Mustard's dearest friends very gently suggested this week that the blogs could be shorter. Mr Mustard decided to add an executive summary for you busy people. 

Executive Summary

Bill doesn't seem to be all he is cracked up to be.
Bill was allegedly on the golf course on decision day. * see update at end
A former customer service department of Bill's are rubbish at answering the phone.

Wind back 2 months to Bill's arrival and the intranet.

In focus – Bill Murphy

Monday, 12 December 2011 Schroder, Johnathan

This week saw the arrival of a new Assistant Director for Customer Services – Bill Murphy – who brings with him a wealth of experience (good or bad?) as the council heads into a key phase of its customer service transformation.

Bill has held a range of more senior roles at other authorities and decided to come to Barnet because of its “exciting agenda and very clear sense of direction”. Or because he had nothing better to do and the pay was good?

Speaking to First Team this week, he said: “Barnet has a really ambitious agenda which and I am really keen to be part of the team driving this forward. I am absolutely passionate about customer services and excited about how technology can transform the customer experience. The Barnet Eye will not be pleased with the grammatical error which turns the first quote into garbage.

”Barnet has the reputation for being radical, and wants to take local government forward into the 21st century.” Who writes this guff and do they really believe it? Residents don't want radical; why not ask them? They want reliable.

Over the last nine years, Bill has overseen customer service transformation programmes first at Southwark and then at Barking and Dagenham. He is sure that, while every council is different, he has learnt valuable lessons at both councils which will be important as the council steps up its own transformation programme before partnering with a strategic provider for customer services in early 2013. Guess who Barking and Dagenham partner with? Agilisys. Have you heard their name before anywhere? There must also be a reason why Bill's 15 recent months in 2010/11 at East Sussex County Council don't get a mention.

Talking about the planned partnership, Bill said: “It’s important to remember that outsourcing is just the beginning of the process not the end – the real benefits happen when we move from managing a procurement process to working with our new partner to drive real service improvement for our residents. In the current climate we need to innovate to survive. A council is not going to stop surviving. When things go wrong residents have to pay for your mistakes.

“I do understand that this is a difficult time for staff but in my experience, a lot of good customer services staff have seen their careers take off as a result of working for a new provider who operates on a national and international stage.” And an awful lot more have thrown in the towel after their terms and conditions have been changed.

Barnet’s new website is set to go live in 2012 and Bill is excited that this provides a platform for us to move ahead of the game in terms of delivering services via the web. He said: “A recent study in America found that 75 per cent of people now access the web through their smartphones. We have got to make sure we are building in flexibility to allow for future innovation. I was really impressed to discover that Barnet already has a mobile app and downloaded it on my first day!” Are we in America? Do 75% of old people have smartphones? Can you do much with the app Bill since you live in the Isle of Dogs?
Isle of Dogs

In his spare time, Bill likes to go running and tries to do at least two seven kilometre runs a week near his home in east London. He is also a Chelsea season ticket holder and says his trips to Stamford Bridge are what allows him to ‘unwind’.

A little birdie has told Mr Mustard that Bill has modestly not mentioned another one of his hobbies. On Monday the results of the bidders for NCSCO i.e. customer services, the department of which Bill is the head honcho, were announced following the completion of detailed scorecards. He has handicapped himself with the staff by not being there at a vital moment and this will be an albatross around his neck. Now Mr Mustard has no proof and this may just be an ugly rumour from the nineteenth hole which is untrue but Bill Murphy was said to be on the golf course when details of the players who made the final cut, Capita and BT, were announced. If that is the case then that is below par leadership. Let us hope it is not so.


At least Southwark moved fairly swiftly. They responded on 18 January. Sadly they sent statistics about answering letters and none about answering the telephone so no reflected glory there Bill.

Barking and Dagenham

Now let us take a quick look at the customer service performance of B&D. Mr Mustard emailed them on 21 December asking:

"I would like to receive any recent report that shows how good you have been at dealing with general enquiries, things like what % of telephone calls were answered promptly, or not at all."  

Whatever you taught them Bill, it didn't stick. 

Look at their telephone answering statistics.

Answered <30 secs
Feb-11 94.70% 79.31%
Mar-11 90.20% 68.65%
Apr-11 87.18% 58.14%
May-11 90.00% 64.99%
Jun-11 96.21% 83.39%
Jul-11 89.89% 64.46%
Aug-11 94.32% 76.46%
Sep-11 89.90% 63.25%
Oct-11 92.80% 73.04%
Nov-11 92.42% 72.39%
Dec-11 90.10% 69.98%
Jan-12 89.54% 59.86%

Mr Mustard and the Leader of Barnet Council had a brief chat about the telephone on Monday evening at Cabinet. The Leader has, after some cajoling, set the bar for success in Barnet at 80% of calls answered within 20 seconds. Your former council B&D have only managed to answer 80% of calls (within an extra 10 seconds to boot) in one month out of 12 and only in 4 other months were B&D above 70%; as for 58%?!!!. In April 11, one call out of eight did not even get answered. Are you reading this Councillor Cornelius?

That is not the sort of transformation the residents of Barnet are looking for Bill.

Why don't you pop off back to Barking and finish the job there, no hard feelings, we can get someone else here, someone from Barnet maybe?

Is Bill one of Uncle Eric's "Town Hall tax dodgers"? Find out tomorrow. 

Update 9.20pm on 22 February 2012.

News has reached Mr Mustard that Bill did make it back from a holiday in Spain to the second briefing ( on Tuesday, first briefing was on Monday ) and that during it he was swinging his arm about like a composer. Perhaps Mr Mustard's informant is correct or perhaps Bill just has a very bad golf swing. You are welcome to tell mrmustard@zoho.com anything that you like Bill. 

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


  1. Dear Mr Mustard,

    I am rather disappointed that you didn't pick up on the rather harsh criticism Mr Murphy managed to sneak into his commentary. Mr Murphy clearly has a great sense of humour. He states that he wants to take Barnet Council forward into the 21st Century. Now those more sharp eyed of us, will realise that you can't "go forward into the twenty first century". In fact you could go backwards eleven years and still be in the twenty first century. In ten months time the twenty first century will be a teenager. My son who is eleven likes to ask me what it was like in the last century.

    One has to wonder what year Mr Murphy thinks it is? If he wants to "go forward into the twenty first century" he's got at least 12 years catching up to do on the rest of us.

    I suggest he starts with the Blogs of Barnet

  2. Well done Roger. I did note at the time that Bill is embarked upon the sale of the century ( the wrong one ) and then as I waited 2 months before I blogged I forgot.

    Talking of Sale of the Century, I think Nicolas Parsons would probably make a better customer services directer.


I now moderate comments in the light of the Delfi case. Due to the current high incidence of spam I have had to turn word verification on.