Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Customer service - measuring the right things

I've just been reminded that demand for customer service, whether in person, at a call centre or via the web can be divided into valuable and failure demand. Valuable is where the contact achieves a business objective, e.g. giving a citizen a benefit whereas failure would be where a citizen complains that the benefit hasn't been paid.

Whilst not as simple to measure as call waiting times etc. outcomes can be assessed by monitoring contacts and judging what sort of demand is being dealt with, supported by some questioning of those making the contacts as to whether they are getting what they need / expect.

Being citizen centric must therefore mean not just providing call centres (or drop in centres)where contacts are answered quickly and dealt with efficiently but making sure that the contact achieves what the citizen wants it to. Performance management systems implemented in support of Transformation government should therefore report on outcomes achieved as well as the mechanics.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Data sharing consultation

The Information Commissioner is consulting on a framework for codes of practice on sharing data at http://www.ico.gov.uk/Home/about_us/consultations/our_consultations.aspx.

The guidance does a good job of meeting its objective of explaining how to create a code of practice. Unfortunately the overall tenor of the document is that sharing data is not a good thing, probably because the document is written from the perspective of an individual public body wanting to protect itself from criticism. Transformational Government thinking should guide the ICO to take a citizen’s perspective and to provide a balance of service with privacy whereas this document, by ignoring the possibility of improving service, slants heavily towards privacy.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Perverse incentives – joined up services

It’s obviously in a citizens interests to receive joined up services, for a start they typically don’t know which public sector organisations do what or how to contact them. Citizen centricity must therefore involved either real joining up or at least guidance and support for citizens to do the joining themselves. And when it comes to claiming benefits to which they are due lack of knowledge can be expensive, with the most disadvantaged losing the most.

But why would a civil servant get involved in joining up services:

  • More work - they have to cooperate with other public sector bodies
  • Increased risk – they aren’t in control of the complete service
  • Loss of budget – someone else delivering the joined up service

Balanced by…………

So what’s needed to change behaviour?, it will need to be a substantial change to overcome these barriers.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Voting - as an example

I've used voting as an illustration of what can be done with Transformational Government thinking. Voting has been around a long time and the way we live now has changed, e.g. we tend to move long distances and not know our neighbours. Before the first world war voting security depended on recognising people in the community centres used for voting, whereas now there is a greater reliance on paper evidence. As remarked by the recent Electoral Commision report; e-Voting and it’s partner postal voting have been looked at as new, more convenient, channels to the existing process for voting rather than ways of making voting work in the 21st century.

A study by a Manchester councillor a few years ago demonstrated that the electoral register was not accurate, houses that had been demolished were still there and some new houses weren’t. Actually voting is only one of many reasons for needing to know where people live and registering to vote not a particularly compelling reason to register ones address. It's obvious that having different processes for registering where one lives and ones eligibility is inefficient, irritating and prone to fraud; for example it can't be long before there's a host of completely new processes to register for different waste disposal requirements. Going back to voting, without too much deep analysis the most important characteristics for voting are:

  • Entitlement is geographic (e.g. local. National constituency etc. elections)
  • Everyone entitled should be invited to vote, so contact details are important
  • Only the person who is entitled to vote should do so
  • The person who votes should not be pressured into who they vote for
  • Voting should be equally convenient for all (to prevent bias)

It seems obvious that if government was confident about who lived where, i.e. had a trustworthy address service, voting and a host of other services could be provided more securely and conveniently.

In designing an address service Transformational Government thinking would guide one to look at involving intermediaries, for example, Royal Mail deliver post to people at the addresses where they live and manage the Post Code Address file. So why not involve them in a shared service to map where people live. There are privacy issues, but that’s also true with the patchwork quilt of processes that exist now. Voting would then be one of the requirements for a shared service for identifying who lives where and how that relates to geographic bounderies e.g. constituencies. It needn't be a national public service as envisaged a few years ago for the National Spatial Address Infrastructure and might well be delivered by public or private sector, local or regional organisations.

Knowing who is eligible to vote and how to contact them is a good starting point for designing a voting system that works for mobile busy people, with e-Voting and postal voting as channel options in an modern voting system designed to balance security and convenience.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Financial inclusion

A report from the Financial Inclusion Task Force in May 2007 http://www.financialinclusion-taskforce.org.uk/PDFs/banking_issues_fit_gns.pdf proudly reports that the number of adults in un-banked households has fallen to 2m by 2005/6 and that 1.2 million people have been brought into banking since Sept 2002, most of whom are people who have taken up Basic Bank Accounts. The report also shows that half of the users of Basic Bank Accounts don’t use Direct Debits or standing orders.

Using the facilities of a bank account, and this must include keeping money safe in the account and paying bills in ways that attract maximum discounts (e.g. Direct Debit) is a valid indicator that one is financially included. Just having an account, because e.g. your employer insists on paying wages into a bank account, isn’t. A Transformational Government should therefore not be interested in people having accounts, but in the number of people that exhibit financially included behaviours.

The recent press frenzy about excessive bank charges gives ample reason to believe that encouraging those that don’t exhibit financially included behaviours to change is much more likely if accounts are provided by people they trust, e.g. Credit Unions or the Post Office. I’m confident that providing the financial features that people on low incomes actually want, e.g. weekly direct debits and protection from unreasonable charges, from organisations they trust will give real inclusion rather than a questionable illusion.