We're now part of the York & North Yorkshire Combined Authority

7 October, 2016

Why customer service counts

The ‘golden thread’ of good customer service should be running through everything the force does

You may know that I’m currently asking people about their priorities for personal and community safety. (Please go to www.tellJulia.com to have your say.) This is because I am in the midst of drawing up your new ‘police and crime plan’, which provides the Chief Constable with direction for North Yorkshire Police over the next four years.

In doing so, I’m acutely aware that people can be a bit sceptical about whether or not telling me what they think will make a blind bit of difference. To a certain extent they have a point, as I can’t reflect the wishes of every resident in a strategic plan. However, last time around, specific issues did emerge, which varied from community to community. For example here in the Harrogate area, road safety was a key concern, so we trailed and are rolling out ‘Community Speed Watch’ in the Borough first.

This time around, as well as a number of other things, ‘customer service’ is being highlighted. But what does this mean, in the context of policing? There are some obvious candidates – getting through on the non-emergency ‘101’ number springs to mind. Over the past three months, the number of 101 calls into the ‘control room’ have increased by 23% and this is putting a strain on the system, which North Yorkshire Police are working hard to improve. Interestingly, the control room is run on a day-to-day basis by a member of police staff with a customer service background. There is undoubtedly a lot the police can learn from other services and sectors.

In this vein, last week KPMG published a review of the sectors that have made the most strides in improving customer service. The ‘public sector’ is at the bottom of their league table. This is disappointing and I believe particularly important in the context of local policing.

As Sir Robert Peel put it, ‘The police are the public and the public are the police’.  If an interaction with North Yorkshire Police doesn’t meet your expectations, let’s imagine an officer is rude for example, I suspect his or her attitude might cause you to think twice about supporting or contacting the police in the future. This could mean you don’t call in a suspicious-looking vehicle, report a ‘petty’ crime, or even seek help when you need it.

That’s why I take customer service so seriously, especially here, where community policing is so important and valued. In an emergency, 99 per cent of the time police response is outstanding. But the majority of day-to-day police work does not comprise 999 responses. In fact, in North Yorkshire, crime accounts for 21% of all police work. The majority of their work are calls for public service and welfare (43%) and anti-social behaviour 17%. . No wonder then, that the priorities you are telling me about are focused on getting the ‘basics’ right.

We all know the leading lights of customer service; John Lewis, First Direct, M&S. They have a certain advantage in that they can offer replacements, refunds and other financial solutions, but good customer service is about more than that.

The KPMG study I mentioned earlier has an interesting approach to measuring what’s good. It’s based on six ‘pillars’: personalisation, integrity, time and effort, expectations, resolution and empathy.  I think all of these can apply to policing, and you’ll note none relate back to money whatsoever.

Taking a closer look at First Direct, customers most valued their sincere apologies, exceeding expectations and understanding the customer’s specific needs.  These things are exactly what I feel need to be at the heart of policing in North Yorkshire.  I certainly want them to be at the heart of the local police complaints system, which new legislation means I can soon reshape.

Of course there are many other things important to policing, but I believe the ‘golden thread’ of good customer service should be running through everything the force does. From thorough investigations and the compassionate support of victims of crime, to making sure the police do what they say they will, not being afraid to say sorry when things go wrong and being easy to contact.

You will have your own list of priorities; the things you feel are important, so please remember that right now you can have your say to shape local policing and community safety services. You’ve heard some of what I think, but I need to make sure I reflect your views and concerns.

The short survey is available at www.TellJulia.com and is open until 18th November.  Please take some time to complete it and ensure your voice is heard, and please encourage your friends and neighbours to do the same.