The people who rely on our services, help and advice aren’t going anywhere. Local Government is not like Telstra or Optus where one can change their providers if they are unhappy with the service. Our customers both internal and external will be relying on our continuing commitment to provide reliable, accurate and timely customer service. In fact, if and as change happens, their reliance on the way we deliver our promises – and our services – may well be at a heightened level.

We all know that mergers or any structural reform may lead to a degree of job losses or redeployment, therefore part of a group that continues to provide quality customer service can place those doing so in a very favourable light. Therefore we must be prepared and my advice is if you have not already done so this is the time to develop your Customer Service Strategy 2015-2020 and embrace the changes that are heading our way in an open and positive manner.

Continuing with a sound customer service strategy

As it is now, our strategic objectives for the coming months and years can’t change. It is our job to deliver a service which is robust through a range of situations and considerations. This service delivery should continue to be both sustainable and scalable, reaching through to 2020 and beyond. It’s surely likely that the key strands noted below will continue to form the principles of our work, whether after an amalgamation, reform, or restructure process.

The key strands we’ll hold on to

There will be ongoing changes in how we communicate, with an increasingly mobile and flexible provision. From this, each customer is likely to have an increasing number of options to choose from when they need to connect with their local council. Each communication will, however, still be as important to the person making the contact as it ever was. In times of change, often an element of reassurance will need to be added to any advice offered or service delivered.

Through this, there will be a clear need to broaden the reach of the quality of delivery into every aspect of a council’s operation. It will be time to connect the internal service points, removing any duplication and inefficiencies, and look to reduce those customer frustrations that remain.

It will be important to have a strategy in place that works with any size of community, whether in a current or amalgamated situation. This roadmap needs to be robust and ready, irrespective of any current uncertainty.

The end result

Continuing commitment and effective planning needs to create a strategy that clearly details how any council will interact with its community and customers. This is true from the first contact they make right through the rest of their lives. This strategy needs to be focused both externally and internally and to be the base point for a culture, with all necessary tools, that spreads right through the organisation. Some folk might say: ‘Why bother when it’s all changing?’ Yes, there are proposed amalgamations in NSW, ongoing discussions in both WA and Tasmania, and the de-amalgamation in QLD. No matter the outcome of these, and the infrastructure changes that may well follow, we should surely accept that, above any other point, life will carry on for each individual within our community, and that their local council must be the dependable shoulder to lean on that we have always been.

Our role is to ‘Spread the Love of Customer Service’ by being there with a solid and workable strategy to guide our community over the next five years in whatever manner they want to communicate with us – channels of communications is the way of the future.

Pauline Webb

President, National Local Government Customer Service Network

Manager – Customer Services, City of Canada Bay Council