Going critical!

November 25, 2008

It’s just out, and despite its few pages and quite large download size (>1Mb) I haven’t read the final version yet.

Yes its: “insight: understanding your citizens, customers and communities” – the report from RSe commissioned by the IDeA, that incorporates the ‘wholesome’  bits from IDeA Community of Practice online conference in the summer, plus added feedback and examples from those who had anything to provide.

The picture of “babushka” on the cover coincides nicely with the other document I was linking it to: “Critically Classifying: UK E-Government Website Benchmarking and the Recasting of the Citizen as Customer” by Benjamin Mosse and Edgar A. Whitley of the Information Systems Group at LSE. The version I’ve just read is from the latest “Info Systems Journal” but I’ve since found a working paper on the LSE web site and a conference paper from 2004 or thereabouts. Not easy reading, even for me with a first degree in philosophy, along with many hours working on Heidegger and his continental brothers and sisters, but inline with the “babushka”, Mosse & Whitley use the onion skin analogy to describe Heidegger’s Ge-stell theory , the selective or uncritcal representation of the real world and how web site benchmarking can become caught up in this!  They have also picked up on the danger of using the citizen as customer metaphor, which was a bee in my metaphorical bonnet throughout the IDeA online conference, although I was deriving my argument from older philosophers, the Greeks, but I have also employed Hirschman’s theory of exit, voice and loyalty and other sources! They also pointed me to a lot more reading on the customer versus citizen debate.

I do hope the IDeA report is easier going…


Customer insight guidance

August 14, 2008

In an exercise that reminds me of that old definition of a consultant*, the IDeA have asked RSe Consulting to produce guidance on customer insight and RSe are asking the advice of the IDeA Community of Practice.

Below I list the questions and my brief responses, the questions do actually focus the mind:

1. How would you define customer insight and how does it differ from other concepts such as customer focus and customer satisfaction?

1. Customer insight is brought about by having sufficient information about customers and their communities. As a practice I prefer citizen engagement, which can only occur successfully (providing satisfaction) when insight is available and focused upon dealing with need.

2. What do you see as the difference between customer insight and citizen insight?

2. The difference is between customer and citizen. All citizens are the customers of government, customers are not necessarily those of government. Customer insight is the type of information provided by Mosiaic and CACI, citizen insight doesn’t exist currently but would be the accumulation of knowledge about particular citizens or groups of them collated from central and local government experience and practice.

3. What are the main challenges faced by Local Authorities looking to develop their customer insight?

3. The main difficulty is that citizen insight is contained within bands of need or service. HMRC’s insight may well be different to that of a district council dealing with the same citizen. Fortunately or otherwise data protection restricts the sharing of much insight.

4. How do you think Councils and local partners should work together to develop their customer insight and what are the challenges in doing so?

4. As with 3, the main challenge is data protection.

5. What are the core customer insight tools that you have seen used well in the sector and by whom?

5. GIS has been used well to map neighbourhoods and their citizens by LA’s such as Sheffield.

6. What tools do you feel are not well understood and used within the sector?

6. The tools are not really ready yet! Geographic Information Systems can be used but need greater layers of data to truly identify citizens within their differing neighbourhoods. How available the data is to be shared is another matter.

7. What do you think should be the key objectives of this guidance?

7. Don’t reinvent the wheel!

8. What are the most important issues that the guidance should cover?

8. Citizenship has obligations as well. Differentiation between consumers and citizens is important when inclusiivity is discussed. Interesting paper on this in ‘Communications – The Next Decade’, published by Ofcom, entitled ‘What citizens need to know. Digital inclusion, information inequality and rights’ by Damian Tambini.

There are of course other papers around the citizen or customer debate but I think its time to call a halt and focus on the needs, satisfaction and engagement of the citizen.