When you buy a product or service – doesn’t matter if it’s a bag of groceries or mortgage advice – you have certain expectations.

You probably expect an efficient service. And for the people you’re dealing with to be polite, helpful and knowledgeable.

You expect value for money and convenience.

There’s a caveat here. Our expectations vary depending on what we’re buying (we don’t expect the same convenience from an artisan baker as we do from a supermarket, but we probably expect more quality).

But typically, the businesses that succeed are the ones who understand what their customers expect from them – and then deliver.

Expectations of public services are no different. And if they are, they shouldn’t be.

Here at Wrexham Council, we’re undergoing a massive change. It’s full-on and fast-paced, and in the midst of everything it’s easy to forget why we’re doing it.

But we’re doing it because we’re trying to get that customer experience right.

Because if we get it right, we’ll become a more efficient and effective organisation.

 

setting standards

Way back in the autumn of 2013, we agreed our four ‘shape principles’ – the things that would guide us through change.

Wrexham Council's shape principles.

 

Our customers were right at the front of our thinking from the start. We wanted to put them first, and at the heart of everything we do.

This month we moved an important piece of the jigsaw into place.

We recently asked people what kind of customer service they wanted. On the back of that, we refreshed our customer care standards – spelling out two things in the process.

1. The kind of experience customers can expect from us.

2. The standards and behaviour we expect from our employees when dealing with customers.

Making sure colleagues understand this is really important. As employees, we all make a difference to how customers think about our organisation through the way we behave towards them.

When was the last time you looked at your organisation’s customer standards?

Do they still reflect your goals? Are they achievable? Do customers and employees know about them?

Questions worth asking.

 

keeping it real

So which is best…exceeding expectations, or falling short?

Neither. It’s best to meet expectations.

If you exceed expectations, your customers clearly weren’t expecting much…or didn’t know what to expect. That’s a problem.

If you fall short of expectations, well I don’t need to explain why that isn’t a good thing.

So when you spell out to customers and employees the standards your aiming for, it’s important to be realistic.

We know we can’t always give customers what they want, when they want it.

But we do know we can always be clear and polite with them, and not hide behind jargon and ‘council speak.’

So we spell that out.

And when we get it right – which we often do – our customers give us really positive feedback. Like this…

“I come in here often, and the service is always excellent.”

“Excellent response and very professional member of staff.”

“Attentive, polite and made me feel at ease. Very effective.”

“I have always had my problems sorted here.”

“Everyone very pleasant and helpful. Thanks.”

 

the contract

I’m really proud of the services we provide. And by relentlessly focusing on our customers, we’ll emerge as an even more effective and efficient local authority.

But it’s not all one-way traffic. We expect something from our customers too. Respect for our employees, who do a tremendous job dealing with enquiries.

So I think of it as a contract.

And as both chief executive of Wrexham Council, and a Wrexham resident who uses our services, I’ll be honouring both sides of the deal.