Skip to navigation Skip to main content
Matan Czaczkes

Rethinking customer relations

teamwork

Increasing ‘customer focus’ has made a huge difference in how public sector services are delivered. It has helped us move away from relating to citizens as dependants – ‘take what you are given and be grateful for it’. As a result, we have seen a real improvement in not only the quality of services, but also in the types of services provided for citizens to choose from.

However, the imperfections of the ‘citizens as customers’ model are now starting to show. It’s good to have satisfied customers, but councils do not necessarily want more of them (if your customers are Looked After Children then ideally you would have no Looked After Children at all). Furthermore, customers are implicitly on the other side of the consumer/provider line where a customer consumes services and a provider provides them. But who says that the customer can’t also be the provider?

When I first joined iMPOWER I worked with a group of foster carers and one said ‘social workers should treat us like colleagues because we know the most about the child and we have been working with them the longest’. This was against a background conversation of foster carers expressing frustration at not being respected as co-producers of the child’s welfare. It all rang quite true. Public sector organisations should be seeing the people involved in our services as partners rather than customers; people who can help us solve problems rather than people who are merely receiving services.

Moving away from citizens as ‘customers’ and instead seeing them as ‘partners’ is not just high-minded rhetoric. It can be really practical. In fact, I’d argue that the future of public services depends on it.

photo credit via photopin (license)

Other relevant insight

Variation in children’s social care: let’s learn from the best councils

Our response to the NAO's report exploring pressures on children’s social care

January 23, 2019

Tackling off-rolling by schools is welcome – but the problem is wider than that

The number of children being electively educated at home is rising, and they are hidden from view: Ofsted should get involved

January 22, 2019

Why local government needs to increase its understanding of domestic abuse

Domestic abuse has major implications for council services, but currently the sector isn't able to understand the scale of the problem

January 21, 2019

iMPOWER iNSIGHT newsletter

Sign up for the latest thinking on delivering sustainable change and better public services

No spam; unsubscribe easily at any time. Learn more in our Privacy Policy.

Close
Close