Monday, April 16, 2007

We're over here now

Gentle readers,

I've moved the blog here:

Sorry for any confusion - but there were a couple of technical reasons for doing so.

Friday, February 02, 2007

How may I help you?

On Tuesday, I spoke at a conference aimed at call centre managers. I was asked to speak to them about - you guessed it - performance management. Now I do know about performance management in general, but really I have very little experience of performance management within a call centre. Well, except that after university I worked in a couple of call centre jobs and in one I was sorta performance managed right out the door, but that's another story.

I had a couple of interesting examples. One was about good call handling stats but poor resolution at one London council - illustrating the importance of getting the "back office" right. And another example that I picked up from a conference in the Autumn:

David Cook [Chief Executive at Kettering] had the best "back to the floor" type tip. He regularly listens in on randomly selected customer calls to the council on tape on his drive home. This helps him get a finger on the pulse of what the main customer issues are, and also on how customer service is being handled in the council.

Well, as it turns out, I didn't get to use either of my examples. (I only had about 10 minutes to speak and the rest of the slot was "panel discussion" - which was actually an interesting format.) Instead what I concentrated on was the importance of call centres (and other transactional services) in collecting and using the large volume of customer data that's available. This will be of increasing importance as customer and community engagement is emphasised through the policy and performance debate. And managers need to be collecting information about not just their own services (call volumes, response times, resolution rates, etc) but providing information about the performance of other council services (e.g. street cleansing).

As a sector, we have to get smarter about how we use customer data. The LGA have already done some work in this area. Putting the customer first is a study into the use of customer information to manage performance. This looks at prioritising the use of customer data and customer segmentation. Together with case studies, it has lessons which are equally applicable to work with partners. We also need to use this data to triangulate evidence around citizen complaints - for example is a community call for action valid? Call centre data could help validate a councillor's decision to refer a matter to scrutiny (or not).

Another policy matter, which I didn't fully have time to explore, was the Varney Review and shared services - and in particular the impact on customer service and efficiency. Councils who are in the process of reviewing or revamping customer service functions will be wise to take heed of efficiency implications of running a call centre on their own without clubbing in with neighbouring councils or partners.

See also:

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Toward an agreed improvement strategy

On Monday, I was lucky enough to be able to go to a conference on the central-local Improvement Strategy. I was there merely as a glorified notetaker, but it was still a great event (organised by my colleague Adrian Barker).

There are a lot of big challenges in the local governance and public sector policy environment and some exciting positive shifts in the way we'll be working - closer working between partners, greater engagement with citizens and customers and stronger, enhanced roles for front line councillors. At this conference, chief executives, senior political leaders, representatives from the Department of Communities and Local Government and regulators were all there to get their heads together around how we'll fashion new, more cohesive and effective ways of supporting improvement in local goverment through these challenges.

At the IDeA, we've long seen our role as working with local government, supporting improvement - and sometimes helping to lead improvement, too as we work with councils to innovate and to share those innovations more broadly within the sector.

Part of our approach to support is going to be how the IDeA helps local government help itself. Paul Coen, Chief Executive of the Local Government Association, spoke about the recently launched LGA campaign - raising the game in local government. Part of it is about taking responsibility for sector colleagues who need a helping hand.

Helping the public sector to help itself on regional or sub-regional basis, while capturing and sharing (and sometimes developing) the learning nationally were certainly some of the themes being explored in the groups I was with. It's too early yet to share headline findings, but we hope to be able to explore and share this debate with you over the coming months.

This is cross posted - (with pictures!) at the Policy and Performance Community of Practice (free registration required) at

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Friday Funday

the lighter side of local government

Reduce, reuse, re-mourn?

Reducing waste to landfills is important responsibility for local government. Introducing waste charges might persuade some people to throw away less. But The Guardian has highlighted some interesting work that councils have done in reducing waste without imposing charges. And that includes innovating recylcing of and re-using materials. For example:

Tameside council, east of Manchester, promotes recycling while cutting carbon emissions, by running a recycling plant. The council then uses the plant's products, with plastic recycled for litterbin and park bench manufacture. As the latter are more resistant to arson than wooden ones, the council has re-introduced cemetery memorial benches. It is also considering plastic headstones.

"We can show children that the plastic they collect is used locally," says Robin Monk, head of environmental services.

What price local engagement?

When I worked in local government, we sometimes gave a small "appearance fee" to members of the public who gave up a wet Thursday evening to talk to us about say...highways maintenance.

But what if you're a member of the public who'd like to get involved - but maybe you just don't have the time? Could you hire a proxy to share your views on local services? Well, in Germany you can.

Young, good-looking, and available for around 150 euros (£100), more than 300 would-be protesters are marketing themselves on a German rental website.

OK, so they're mostly just willing to protest - but maybe they'd charge a little less to attend a neighbourhood forum - so long as sandwiches were provided.

Those don't grow on trees, you know

Pranksters were being held responsible today after a tree sprouted a strange fruit of shoes and boots.

Councils have to deal with all sorts -

Brenda Brooker, spokeswoman for Gosport Borough Council, said contractors had been tasked with taking the shoes down.

She said: "I know the winds have been strong of late but unless it blew down the changing rooms of the local football team and whistled up all the boots into the air, I suspect it is someone having a laugh."

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Communities of Practice update

As regular readers may be aware, we've started a new Community of Practice for Policy and Performance on the IDeA's Community of Practice platform at
Each month, I round up contributions to our CoP for an internal newsletter, but there's no reason I can't share it here.

January highlights from the Policy and Performance Community of Practice

You do need to be registered in the Policy and Performance Community of Practice, but registration is easy and immediate. Join us at

And - there was a late entry, too which I didn't manage to round up. The IDeA offers training on Communities of Practice facilitation and my colleague Vicki Goddard (who frequently provides me with Friday Funday fodder) has just come back from her training and started blogging immediately. And why did she do it? To impress me...

My colleague Ingrid Koehler swears by all this, especially the ease of it all, so practicing using the Communities of Practice platform will help me impress her(!), means I can upload content because I want to, not because I'm being (well-intentionally!) 'nudged' into it(!!,) and enable us to work more together on these ways of working and enhance the work we do.

I wonder who she's talking about with the good-natured nudging? Can't be me, as I downright harass and harangue!

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