I recently attended a working group meeting where we discussed subjects such as the meaning of customer service excellence accreditation, whas it worthwhile, what was the general opinion of collegaues etc. One of my colleagues who worked in a support role for the main customer facing services expressed an opinion that it was hard finding evidence of customer service excellence relative to other services which dealt directly with customers of the Local Authority.
It struck me that every single service or department of a service are like a human chain across a river, you know what I mean, when people stand side by side with arms interlocked to form a chain across a fast flowing river. People would than be able to cross the water without being washed down stream. This is fine, but its success depends on every link in that human chain being strong and helping secure the link either side. If this happens, our imaginary person can cross the river and reach safety. If only one of those links is weaker for any reason and fails, then the chain fails and this time our imaginary friend better be a good swimmer.
Our services are very much like that chain, each one depending on the other for strength and for it to work so that they can work efficiently and be able to give good customer service and have a chance at achieving excellence. If one of those chains is not strong then we fail the customer and need to look inwards to identify why it failed. If all are working together towards that common goal, then we are strong and customer service excellence becomes a credible goal!
What I am trying to get at here is that just as we would trace every step back when a mistake is made, or a failure is recognised, to find the cause, we should be doing the same when we are striving to achieve excellence and indeed when we achieve it, to recognise those services or people who have helped make it possible or who are vital in making it possible in the first place. Just because a person may sit in a room 7 hours of the working day providing a service but never seeing member of the public, does not mean that they are any less important in the process of giving good customer service, in fact they are probably more important than the officer who recieves the 'thank you' or positive reponse on a survey. Support services are an integral part of giving good customer service and should be incorporated into every aspect of accreditation and recieve an equal part in any praise from accreditation.
How strong a link are you?