Service is universal, expectation is portable

How much does great service in one context affect your expectations for another?

Yesterday I gave a talk about the future of local government to an audience of lawyers working in that field. Not about the democracy but about the services that local government provides and how it will need to radically restructure in order to keep those services going in one form or another.

I talked about Enfield and the concept of Citizen-Centric Design that we built there. I talked about the debates we’ve had at the round table events I host for thinkers in this space. And I talked about the work we’re doing with Republic of Things to apply the Internet of Things to good use in this context.

I also talked about a concept that I’ve long discussed but haven’t blogged about before. A concept that I think is important for public and private businesses alike when considering the future of their interactions with customers (not that I like this term when used in the public sphere).

Our experience of service in one context affects our expectation of service in every other. There are no boundaries to this, particularly when our interactions are on digital channels where there is little to distinguish between contexts.

I don’t think this is a particularly original idea, yet when you explain it, it seems to make people sit up and think. People start to understand that the benchmark for service in their industry isn’t their immediate peers. It is the other services that their customers are interacting with.

In a council context this is particularly interesting. Bench-marking against other councils might be useful. But bench-marking against the BBC, Amazon, or Uber might be more valuable, even if the initial analysis is harsh.


In our last round table event discussing the digitisation of the relationship between city and citizen, there was absolute acknowledgement from the sector leaders around the table that they didn’t have enough exposure to the leading ideas from outside of their sector. I think this is a common problem. Most people in most organisations have limited visibility of what is going on outside, even in adjacent sectors. They may experience it as consumers but somehow they don’t make the connection. Yet what is happening in those sectors both sets customer expectations and threatens to disrupt their business.

This reinforces for me the need for a formalised programme, in every organisation, that forces leaders to look up, outwards and forwards. Not every five years on a strategy away-day to a nice hotel. But every six months for just a few hours. A few hours where the world, and the future, comes to them.

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Tom Cheesewright