Customer care New York style

Customer care New York style

They say New York taxi drivers are the rudest in the world but customer care New York style is best illustrated by their breakfast dinners/experience.

I've been to New York – I've seen the future.  It's fast, efficient, cheap and intimidating.  The future of our public services if they follow the previous pattern of imitating the US business model will be like a New York breakfast.  That is, fast, efficient, cheap and intimidating.

It needs to be fast because everyone is in a hurry.  It needs to be efficient because it's very busy and people don't like waiting.  It needs to be cheap or people will go elsewhere and of course there needs to be extensive choice because the customer expects it.

If you know exactly what you want and you know how the system works you can get a cheap, quick breakfast of your choice.  But efficiency depends on people being decisive and the speed depends on people knowing what to do and not asking lots of "dumb" questions in a hard to follow accent.  For those not used to this self service system it is off-putting, even intimidating.  The result for me was not getting the breakfast I wanted but the one easiest to order.  Cheap and quick but not a satisfying experience.  The thing is though you do get used to it!

No doubt this is how it would be if the public sector adopted this model.  I can see that in personal social services people with a physical disability would soon get to understand the system, the middle class parents of people with a learning disability would exploit it to their benefit, most elderly people would be put off except those lucky enough to have a capable son or daughter to guide them.

This approach is not a million miles away from the "Easy Council" and it no frills service based on the economy airline model. This too requires a certain amount of no how and confidence to book on line, to understand the need to travel light due to  weight restrictions and limits on hand luggage, the implications of not having allocated seating and the fact that everything is an extra which is charged for.

 What these models have in common is that they are cheap, they are efficient and in so far as they do what they say they do good value for money.

But I can't help thinking they are neither customer friendly or accessible to the whole community. Cost and choice are not the only measures of success.

This article appeared in full in the February edition of the Public Servant magazine.

Blair McPherson author of Equipping managers for an uncertain future published by Russell House


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