A year of work in progress – day 89

Day 89 – 19 May 2014

Over the weekend I managed to finish ‘Managing the customer experience’ by Smith and Wheeler. It wasn’t one of the best for me as some of the stories related to firms that have now passed their prime but it has made me reconsider the relationship we need to have with our customer. I also managed to finish the last of the books that I had borrowed from County Hall library, ‘Se lo que pensando’ by John Verdon which was much more visceral and exciting. I visited Scott at lunchtime to renew my supplies.

In the meantime I picked up ‘Relato de un Naufrago’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a book I bought a long time ago in Barcelona and decided to read again as he has recently died (I guess I’m reading it again as a tribute) along with ‘The man who mistook his wife for a hat’ by Oliver Sacks. I’m sure this has nothing to do with work but then you never know.

The first event of the day was the last of the presentations for this round, this time at Meadowfield.  As usual when I got there I had to run the gamut of the high security enforcement in place to keep the car park in some order but I arrived early enough for it not to be a problem (only just mind you). The presentations have been well attended this time. Perhaps it was the subject matter. My trousers also stayed intact.

Next up it was back to County Hall for the customer Focus Board. I did the Metro Centre thing and followed someone back to their car to get a space. The meeting was a good two hours of useful and interesting discussions around the telephony strategy (whether to use call centres or not), the Customer First strategy (people’s preferences for contacting the Council) and complaints handling (when is a complaint customer feedback instead).

Complaints are a good thing in that they help us to learn from mistakes or miscommunications we have made yet we are often criticised for being too defensive about them. Rather than ‘deep joy – this is a useful source of learning’ we tend to try and refute any claims in case it reflects badly on the Council, which of course it does anyway. Instead we should encourage all feedback and stop sending out the message (consciously or sub-consciously) that complaints are bad and the less we have the better.

In the afternoon we had the core group where we carried out an exercise to try and map all of our applications to get a picture of where we are and where we need to be. I thought that this was going to be relatively simple. On reflection I was being naïve. We have a list of systems and the functionality that they deliver but we lack that future vision. We eventually agreed, after going around the houses to: identify the key systems that run our business at service group level; list the functions they provide (in other words why we bought them); try and identify the functions we will need in the future (say next five years) taking into account everything we know. We’ll then bring these altogether and overlay them with areas where we have a known corporate requirement as well as some of the key drivers and milestones.

It took us a while to get there but at least clarity prevailed in the end and everyone went away with a common understanding. We could all recite the corporate values as well.

Learning points for today: You can get hanger, a mixture of hunger and anger so make sure you eat regularly (that’s my excuse); reality is a personal construct of our own senses; performance indicators can be too good; the telephone is declining as the preferred method of contacting the Council though is still the preferred method and; an apology doesn’t admit liability.

Today’s enjoyment rating 8/10 – a bit head spinning.

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