Voice of the Customer

May 27, 2010

My thanks to Nic Streatfeild, founder of rol Ltd the developers of GovMetric, for an email about his latest posting on his newish blog. Perhaps if I’d kept up with his Tweets I might have realised without the prompt!

GovMetric had the sense to realise that the Internet is not the only channel and so record feedback across the available ones, e.g. web, face-to-face and telephone.

When I started my research Nic was kind enough to meet up in Leicester for a chat about it and even offered access to anonymised data, which in the end I didn’t take up, but they’ve now taken a different approach and created the UK Councils Monthly Buzz Index out of their CouncilMonitor tool! So as well as reporting back citizen feedback via GovMetric they’re also trawling social media for feedback on councils. This seems a little like Professor Ann Macintosh’s IMPACT development work for the EU reported earlier, but focused on specific councils.

This experiment may or may not succeed but if nothing else will reveal some interesting trends across the GovMetric users. Unfortunately, for Nic and GovMetric my council and most of the others in North Yorkshire have signed up with a competitor, CMetrix. It’s nothing personal, just Yorkshire folk being canny with their money. What also may be interesting is when we can compare data across five districts and a county council.

My list of all the similar systems to GovMetric and CMetrix is still available  at Company table V8.

Improving service

January 12, 2010

The Socitm Customer Access Improvement Service has published its latest (December 2009) report, which is Issue 3. It has received a great detail of reportage for its emphasis on poorly performing council web sites. I’m not sure that quite so much can be read from the cumulative data, and a bit like National Indicator 14 “avoidable contact”  believe these analyses need to take place at a more granular level and thing some of the assumptions are very subjective!

I also have a concern that a document from Socitm is making statements like the one on page 3 “The country cannot afford the current scale of the public sector.” This is a broad brush attack on all government, so includes local authorities and health trusts. This is not a decision for an IT managers organization, it’s one for the electorate since some countries, as we know, have a much higher scale of expenditure. What really matters is the quality being delivered for that expenditure, if its too high a quality or too low, the public have to decide. If too much is being spent they have to decide what services are no longer required, or whether services they can do without are being delivered. Ultimately this is the value of applications such as that used by GovMetric or the others named on my list (see below) – they give the public an opportunity to comment on the value of services delivered.

According to the report there are now 56 councils providing GovMetric data but of these only one is acknowledged to be recording data across the three major channels in one directorate or service only, which is not ideally what we should be achieving if we are to understand channel shift or manage channels at all.

Big things continue to be made about South Tyneside’s apparent channel shift around waste management, which they achieved by developing their web site as a result of feedback through the service, I would argue that all channels need to be improved and this is an end-to-end reform of services, since channels are only the presentation layer. We have a lot more experience with the face-to-face and telephone channels and have obviously some experience at delivering them, but the web is the new kid on the block, it can’t at the moment be interactive in the sense of the Turing machine.

I believe getting feedback from citizens is the way forward but I have doubts about making too much of it from the higher level generalizations that Socitm makes and I must say that the one promoted by Socitm is not the only solution – have a look at the list – Company table V8.

UPDATE – I’ve been asked by Alex Chapman of GovMetric to update on a few possible inaccuracies between my reading of the Socitm CAIS report and the state of play with GovMetric, which I am posting below –

  • “There are currently 59 authorities signed up to GovMetric with a further 9 housing associations; so, there are just under 70 users in total
  • More importantly, almost all of these are using GovMetric in a multi-channel approach measuring customer feedback and performance across at least 3 channels (F2F, phone and web) and across typically 8 services
  • An increasing number are also linking this feedback data to E&D and customer segmentation groups as well to increase their insight about what customers needs are, their experiences and their channel preferences.


I agree with you whole heartedly that, “if we are to understand channel shift or manage channels at all”, we do need to go beyond one service or even one channel; this is not the case with GovMetric, neither in concept nor in practice.  From a GovMetric perspective, customer feedback is not the only thing that matters, but being able to understand service demand by service, by channel, as well.”

Interim Survey Results 2009

August 9, 2009

What’s been happening in NI14 land?

I’d been looking at and considering the replies to this year’s survey but having only had 31 responses I wasn’t rushing to do the data analysis. However, Public Sector Forums did another encouraging post about the survey and despite it having little effect I started examining the data.

It’s a bit of a pain for those getting the RSS feed but rather than spend ages transfering a MS Word document into WordPress with the inevitable cutting and hacking at the HTML I decided to cheat and put it as a PDF!

I had a couple of surprises from the results but you’ll just have to look at the Great Emancipator Survey 2009 Interim Report

For greater comparison, it may help looking at last years at the same time?

What shall we do?

June 7, 2009

It was an interesting week (w/c 1 June 2009). On Wednesday morning I met up with Vicky Sargent of Socitm who was presenting the latest consolidated feedback from the GovMetric/Socitm Customer Access Improvement Service. Vicky and I are old acquaintances and so had time before and afterwards to compare notes, and I am pleased to say CAIS supports what I have been saying on this blog that we (government or any service provider) need to collect and compare feedback across all channels and use it to improve services across them all in a coordinated manner.

On Thursday morning I was travelling around the beautiful northern reaches of the very rural district that I work in, checking on polling stations. The fact that at one I managed to get a mobile signal by standing in the middle of the village green next to the tall steel maypole might indicate the limited coverage. If an emergency had occurred it would have meant looking for one of the BT K6 phoneboxes that are still around these ‘chocolate box’ villages! So, what about datacomms in these areas? What about modernising elections in these rural village and church hall ballot stations, many of which don’t have disabled access let alone Internet?

Friday saw me at the Yorkshire International Business Convention discussing broadband services in between listening to excellent presentations from John Cleese, Dave Stewart, Tim Sanders, Matt Pritchett, Tim Smit and Tracy Edwards about creativity, innovation and inspiration. One message was to be positive and stay that way.

The deep thoughts left me thinking about what should change, what could change, and how we change it.

My current conclusion is to use the above described multi-channel feedback and remodel services around it. When technology permits other things will be facilitated.

Complaints advice

May 25, 2009

I’ve mentioned Professor Bob Johnston before but it appears he’s also a favourite of the Institute of Customer Service.  Based upon his research they’ve published some brief guidance upon how to best manage them. They’ve also published various reports commissioned by them from researchers such as Bob.

There are some words of wisdom such as:

“A complaint is a gift and you should consider yourself lucky that a customer is prepared to give up valuable time to help you improve your organisation.”

“One can learn so much about problems with internal processes, training, specific employees/managers, and product – free”

“Do you have a continuous culture? Do you check customer (and employee) satisfaction regularly?”

There’s also a comment here from Vicky Sargent who does much work on the web metrics side of Socitm – she’s seen councils where monitoring feedback makes a difference to their services!

NI14 back in the news?

December 3, 2008

A recent survey from supplier Rostrvm included the addendum that:

“Other problems identified by the contact centres include the ambiguity of what is required (19%), the necessity of training staff to comply (11%) and preparing the back office and service support systems to handle the extra data (10%). A further 8% would struggle due to a lack of resources and time constraints. Just 4% of the local authorities surveyed did not perceive any problems preventing them from meeting the target. ”

I was actually surprised at the large numbers doing anything, although at the recent Tower NI14 event I was the only one who admitted their authority wasn’t being particularly active, I suspect I was the only one stupid enough to do so in front of the Audit Commission and Government Office!

The problem demonstrated by the survey is that in its true conception the indicator is not just for call centres and should cover all citizen contact be that face-to-face, email or web, so it needs to be dealt with as a CORPORATE issue! I wonder how many can truly say that?

 The fact that ‘avoidable contact’ or whatever is not just for call centres is proven by The ‘Half-yearly review and results summary’ of the Socitm/Govmetric Customer Access Improvement Service where on page 8 was the revelation that  not all channels are equal that whilst telephony was favoured for many there was an clear lead on the web for adult services and that in satisfaction terms the web was less satisfactory across all the services listed! This is a clear vote for Citizen Engagement Exchange to dig into the reasons why, especially when most of those using the telephone for all services were satisfied. I’m afraid the publication is for users and Socitm Insight subscribers so I can’t link to it here, but it just proves what those of us looking at the breadth of channels will have realised! It also showed just how great the web channel usage was compared with the others…despite lack of satisfaction.

Viewing the market

November 19, 2008

Having mentioned GovMetric and Mavis over recent months I felt it fair to list the other suppliers of systems specialising in NI14 and/or satisfaction, other than the pure customer relationship management (CRM) systems that have been adapted to record ‘avoidable contact’. If anybody knows any other systems, please let me know. I’m not saying that any are any good, and I know some are very expensive and some quite limited but one of these days I’ll prepare a comparison chart:







Another two added on the 20th November:



A brief comparison table added  as a PDF 21 November 2008: company-table