London calling! Revisiting NI14…

I travelled to an event today (3rd November 2008) hosted near the Tower of London all about National Indicator 14 for some further discussion of it. On the journey I was reviewing the literature about gaps and concluded that life was to short to cope with detailed gap analysis, so I’m hypothesising that citizen engagement feedback can be used to handle them, but hopefully that will all come out at the EiP conference in a week’s time!

Rather than a verbatim report, thought I’d pick up on the highlights or useful points that came out at the conference…

One of the introductions was by Sarah Fogden, reported to be inventor of NI14 and arch-nemesis of John Seddon, originator of the concept of demand failure, which Sarah highlighted by stating that she didn’t mind what the indicator was called but one was needed to satisfy the process-driven people at Whitehall, when I’d always thought they were target-driven and thought that all our problems would be solved if they were lead by process or system! She also tied the words ‘holistic’ and ‘transformation’ together – I wonder what Jan Smuts the South African statesman would think were he still around eighty years on? (Smuts’ definition – “The tendency in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts through creative evolution”.

She did say to focus upon the key priorities of the organisation, use the CRM system to assist; that there is no right way to do it and that the overall figure for NI14 is meaningless…

Tom Wraith of the Audit Commission had little new to say but was still interesting when he stated that NI14 was:

  • the most frequently queried indicator
  • unlike most indicators
  • had far less prescription
  • moved on from BV157
  • a tool for self-improvement
  • AC won’t be directly comparing but they had a duty to make it public
  • what’s included is up to you!
  • The CLG edict that there was a need to ‘justify methodology’ was a little harsher than AC would have desired
  • It would be used as part of the conversation/dialogue with authorities about managing resources
  • Needed to be triangulated with the evidence

He was asked by Tony Hinkley who has been working for ESD-Toolkit on NI14 whether it was their intention to make it compulsory to use the Local Government Service List (LGSL) which I believe he confirmed?

Kate Batty from Tameside said that NI14 was not the whole answer but that ESD-Toolkit, Mosaic, customer journey mapping and customer service training were all part. Here words were that the order should be: people, process, then technology! One her snappy phrases was ‘lets stop worrying about measuring apples and pears and measure fruit’, which in NI14’s case was highly appropriate…

A fascinating presentation was made by Tom Benford upon the ‘call reduction strategy’ used at the DVLR. He stated that 60% of their customer wanted to use the ‘phone for service, despite frequently having got the number off the web site! In order to reduce avoidable contact and the number of telephone calls they’d looked at the end-to-end customer experience and the process times. As a result they’d made a number of changes:

  • revised the direct.gov content
  • put their the actual questions being asked on the web
  • made their URL’s friendly
  • put a link from the online directory enquiries to the web site
  • adopted plain English
  • redesigned customer-facing documents especially the highly used ones
  • cross-referenced material with online content
  • moved away from using form numbers
  • agreed customer-meaningful turnaround times for metrics
  • revised telephone book entries – put web site address first but also numbers which may not be their services but which the public think they do

One question revealed that despite not being NI14, the resultant transformation was possibly more effective than NI14

It was also stated that no local authority had included NI14 within their quota of targets for LAA…

NI14 had shifted to being outcome focused

Blackpool had realised that their ‘Customer First’ wasn’t working so they listened to customer demand for six weeks, wrote everything down and from this extracted 4000 demands, 121 of true value under seven  broad themes. With their turnover of residents they found change of address to be the most frequent demand and focused upon that initially. Their motto was “in a perfect world, how would we serve the customer?”

A lesson from Halton to their staff when training was: “to think of it from the customer’s view!”

I hope the Cabinet Office don’t mind me publicising the fact that the presentations should be available on their web site.

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