Day 4 of Customer Service Week and it is flying by. Today’s theme, as set by the Institute of Customer Services is Collaboration. On the back of this I thought it would be a great opportunity to go and sit amongst some of my customers. Now this is something I do quite often yet the council is a very large organisation and you could spend a lifetime trying to get to know everyone.
I have been on the board to replace a Highway’s system for some time now and it would seem that things have been going well yet, as I have said many times, there is no substitute for face to face contact. I arranged to go to Meadowfield, to meet the team and find out whether my assumptions, and those of the board are correct.
Now, I have been to Meadowfield many times. A lot of the ICT Services’ team are located there at the back of the building yet I hadn’t spent much time in those at the front. The first thing that struck me when I went into the open plan office, however, was the amount of paper. I was taken aback as it was everywhere. Desks were covered with it, as were the bookcases, windowsills and every other surface available. It even spilled out onto large parts of the floor and filled many of the kneehole spaces under the desk. In my own service I am just don’t see it anymore to such an extent.
I asked about it and much of it was down to the nature of their work though there was a significant amount of process, just in case and habit behind it all.
I was particularly interest in how the recent systems changes had affected the users and that was the main direction of my questioning. Everyone was very pleasant with me and, in the main, understood the need for the changes in the highways and customer relationship management systems we had made. They felt that they had both gained and lost in the process. They had gained with some additional functionality and improved interoperability between the teams. They no longer had to do some transfer of work to others now. On the other hand, they had lost some of the little things that made their job easier and process that they were used to were now strange and didn’t come automatically to them. I was reminded of my venture into left-handedness.
They felt that the new systems could do more, if only they had the time and training to unravel their mysteries and, for me, this was the key lesson. Change is hard. It takes time and it takes investment but in the crazy time during a systems implementation these are the things that get lost. In our dash to restore functionality we lose sight of the fact that it is people that run the systems and a greater investment in them would pay off handsomely.