Headlines: September 13th, 2005

Local authorities have been praised for ‘blazing a trail in customer service’ as a record number of councils is getting ready to take part in National Customer Service Week. At the same time more authorities are being urged to stand up for service.The Institute of Customer Service has launched a campaign across the country in the lead up to the week, which runs from October 3rd to 9th and which the ICS says is a major event aimed at boosting standards across public, private and voluntary sectors. Activities will include the release of new findings on the links between organisational performance and staff reward and recognition as well as the publication of new research on technology and customer service.

Paul Cooper, communications director of the Institute, said, “Local government is blazing a trail in customer service, every day chipping away at the myth that the UK is bad at customer service.”

Councils already signed up to take part in National Customer Service Week include Aberdeenshire, Lincolnshire and Shropshire county councils, Newcastle, Derby, Bradford and Southampton city councils, and a number of London Boroughs, including Havering, Enfield and Redbridge.

Chief executives are being urged to staff their front desks and act as ‘mystery shoppers’ during the week and to test the quality of their authorities’ services by anonymously phoning their call centres and offices.

Paul Cooper said local government put many commercial organisations to shame with their enthusiasm for making themselves accountable, actively encouraging feedback and embracing electronic service capabilities. There were some organizations, however, that were unwilling or afraid to change in spite of customers’ heightened expectations of quality service.

He added that local government’s commitment to customer service was also shown by the big increase in the number of councils – currently 70 – that had joined the ICS. District councils in Lincolnshire and Shropshire, for example, had joined en bloc through their county authorities and that trend towards collaboration was increasing.

More information on how to take part in National Customer Service Week is available at www.nationalcustomerserviceweek.co.uk   or by calling 01206 571716.