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So, twenty years later, do we need CRM?

There’s a diagram you’re probably all familiar with. I call it the ‘1999 CRM diagram’, but it pre-dates that by some way, I think. It has different contact channels coming in, usually from the top, usually illustrated with clip art – phone, letter, email (you can check how outdated it is by whether it includes fax, pager or quill, or excludes smartphones – and how optimistic it is by whether it includes interactive TV!)

These contact channels hit a big rectangle – the ‘customer contact layer’, which sits above an even bigger ‘customer management / CRM’ rectangle. Below that are dotted lines showing ‘integration’ with a load of big cylinders or ‘legacy ICT systems’ – and if you’re lucky, somewhere on there are some squiggles for service areas delivering actual services!

At RedQuadrant, we have some very fruitful disagreements within our teams about the value or otherwise of CRM systems. My view though is that every organisation does need a ‘customer relationship management’ *strategy*. But most customer contact thinking is about just that – customer contact. This focuses on reducing unit costs, optimising the use of resource. As the ‘seven ways to save and improve’ shows us, this is good where it supports customer and organisational purpose, understanding of demand, economies of flow and good processes. And is very very naughty where it undermines those things! I thought the days of the four-year ‘transformation’ programme based around a mega-CRM implementation and mega-call centre set-up (cost: £79m, payback, £27.732m per year after year two) were long gone, but perhaps not.

What is interesting is that having moved from completely disparate, unmanaged, and often very very poor customer contact management (though sometimes brilliant) – where each individual and business unit had a telephone number which might or might not get answered – into a centralised model of contact centres, the best organisations are now finding ways to distribute the contact BACK to the people who have to deal with the actual underlying customer issue. This can only be a good thing (ask me if you want to read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ thoughts on lean!) but it *doesn’t* mean we’ve abandoned the underlying principles of good customer contact management. Rather than the pendulum just swinging back, things have actually moved on and improved.

Nor does it mean that centralised CRM and contact management are always, automatically, a bad thing. I have seen very good call centres, with some limited use of phone menus etc, actually deliver brilliant customer services – 90% is in the implementation, as with everything in life – you just set yourself a bigger challenge if you start from the wrong place (but then, that’s often where you have to start).

Once, everyone had to come in to the office in person. I’ve worked on customer contact with the government of Armenia and believe me, it was chaos – people wandering the halls and hoping to bump into the Minister! Then we organised and rationalised – a competent receptionist, different queues. Then technology switched much of it onto the phone and as the technology improved and we all wanted a phone on our desk, and exchanges gave us all outbound lines, we moved back to the chaos in a way. So we put in a (massive) phone receptionist. Now, as things move on, we are moving back to distributed customer contact – but having learnt the lessons, both good and bad, from the centralising experience, it is very different from how it was before. (and of course, face-to-face contact and phone still need to be managed as people increasingly use newer technology to do things online).

So, what lessons have we learned? A few are:

- it’s a good idea to have a single view of the customer. But it’s hard, and the payback is uncertain, and good research shows that CRM is consistently the fifth, sixth or seventh most reliable source of customer data in a local authority! If you have competent and responsive IT people and can get a good enough enterprise architect, and sustain investment in a true customer database, you should do that – if not, don’t

- economies of flow trump economies of scale/optimisation of resources

- optimising part of the customer contact process at the expense of the whole is a stupid idea – so one system that everyone uses, with simple steps, optimal hand-off to real life people/service delivery, and a shared knowledge base, just makes sense. This could be CRM or simple web forms plus a dashboard of data – and when I say ‘everyone uses’, this should be everyone from service to chief exec to customer service operator to customer on the phone, customer on the web, customer on a paper form, customer using an iphone

- this needs to be fully and sensibly integrated into any other systems used – ‘back office’ or service delivery processes

- some outsourcing/partnerships worked and some didn’t – the reasons are not too hard to learn

Why community budgets must fail – and why they might succeed

Deep breath now… Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs), Local public service agreements (LPSAs), LPSA2, Single Regeneration Budgets (SRB), the Community Care Act, joint finance/pool finance, Health Action Zones (HAZ), Neighbourhood Renewal Budgets (NRB), Better Government for Older People (BGOP), Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRPs), Children’s Centres, New Deal for Communities (NDC), Health Improvement Partnerships (HIPs), Health Improvement and Modernisation Plans (HIMPs), Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs), the National Service Framework for Older People (NSF), the Rough Sleepers Unit, Section 31 pooled budgets, Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA), Local Area Assessment (LAA), the Primary Care Support Service (PCSS), Children’s Trusts, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the Social Exclusion Taskforce (SETF) report, Neighbourhood Renewal Strategies, Community Strategies, the Data Protection Act, Health People, Healthy Lives, the Innovations Forum, the Social Investment Bond feasibility study, the review of the local performance management framework, Local Economic Partnerships, Partnerships for Older People (POPPs), ThinkFamily, Project SEARCH, Commissioning, More Commissioning , and indeed the Commissioning Support Programme (and Excellence in Commissioning) – and now, community budgets (and neighbourhood community budgets)…

So, apart from Being Very Important (and having obligatory TLAs) – what do all these have in common? (Well, apart from the one I made up and the one I definitely got wrong)…. They are all things that have ‘happened’ to local government and partners over the last fifteen years or so. They are almost all central government-directed, they are all designed to encourage ‘partnership working’. And very few of them really changed the world in the way they aspired to do!

Don’t get me wrong. A number of them moved forward the agenda significantly (if you’ll excuse the form of words). I got the pleasure of quoting Yes, Minister to the ODPM officials when I was part of ‘evaluating the burden of the local authority performance reporting landscape’…

Sir Humphrey: If local authorities don’t send us the statistics that we ask for, then government figures will be a nonsense.
Jim: Why?
Sir Humphrey: They’ll be incomplete.
Jim: But government figures are a nonsense anyway.
Bernard: I think Sir Humphrey wants to ensure they’re a complete nonsense.
Cartwright       I’m saying, nevertheless, South Derbyshire is the most efficient local authority in  the UK.
Minister           Most efficient?  I’m supposed to be ticking them off for being the least efficient.
Cartwright       Look at the figures.  
Minister           I thought they didn’t send us any?
Cartwright       No, but they keep their own records perfectly well.  I’m going on those.  (He opens a file and shows the Minister.)  They’ve got the lowest truancy record in the Midlands, the lowest administrative cost per council house, lowest ratio in Britain of council workers to rate income, clean bill of public health, with the lowest number of environmental health officers

But there was something somewhat irritating in the way these ‘brand new ideas’ were repeatedly launched by the government with the patronising promise of ‘enabling’ and inspiring the ‘best of the sector’ with promises of freedoms and flexibilities. All too often, the new performance indicators were applied, the ‘partnership working’ was agonisingly worked through, and some results were achieved – but the freedoms and flexibilities seldom lived up to their promises.

So, what about community budgets? (And their little sibling, the neighbourhood community budget). On the face of it, it doesn’t look promising. First of all, get out of your mind anything about the community being involved with budgets or budget setting (participatory budgeting barely made a blip, and that was only because Ben Page made it part of his after-dinner circuit for a few months).

The department for communities and local government (never notably influential in corralling or negotiating amongst the big girls like Treasury and the DWP in the past), has very kindly and generously offered local government additional freedoms and flexibilities. Oh, and a whole bunch of civil servants from across government departments on secondment. I can hear you struggling to contain your enthusiasm. In their eagerness to win this great accolade, local authorities have produced a kind of smörgåsbord menu – a whole agglomeration of all the big things local government has always wanted to achieve, plus the latest dishes du jour. Results based payments? Check. Infrastructure for economic development? Check (and not just York stone paving this time – see my forthcoming article on The York Stone Paving and Junction Treament Revolution of the late 1990s). Integration of public health, social care, and primary health? Check. Community investment bonds? Check. Reducing gang violence? Yes, it’s all there.

So – it’s doomed to fail (or, in the usual way of political initiatives, Doomed To Succeed, whatever happens in reality). Or… perhaps not. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something seems subtly different this time. Perhaps the way that the central government secondees – as well as being intelligent and well-educated, as we’d expect – are actually pragmatic and delivery-focused. Perhaps the way that everyone seems very open and aware about the limitations of their own organisations – and prepared to work their way around them. Perhaps the way – although the community budget manifestos contain the usual jumble of problem statements, assertions, and unproven hypothesis about pre-determined solutions – the people actually on the ground are drawing from a real evidence base! Perhaps because everyone’s had a dose of financial and political reality and is working out what it takes to sell new ideas and new ways of working to politicians, stakeholders and the like. Perhaps because there promises to be real networking and sharing of ideas between the councils involved.

And perhaps, in an odd sort of way, because of the one thing that central government omitted from the usual recipe this time around – the cash. That’s right – all these expectations, all these challenges, and  not even the tiniest ‘success percentage’. Sure, the Treasury might (though no one knows how it will be evaluated) make money available if there’s an invest-to-save or results-based payment or similar business model (but even the Treasury won’t look a gift horse in the mouth). So apart from some mild fanfare, a bunch of eager secondees, and some communications linkages, we’re all in this together. We have a bunch of bright people, some ideas worth testing, and a desire to change results for the better. So… just maybe… this time will be different.

Unique Customer Transformation Club

10 October 2013, 2-5pm followed by networking

British Interplanetary Society, SW8 1SZ

Are you doing customer transformation?

Are you interested in exploring it and finding out more?

In partnership with the London Borough of Merton, RedQuadrant is excited to be sponsoring this event. Unlike existing groups for those interested in contact centre management, transformation techniques or customer insight, the Customer Transformation Club will be different – is it for those undertaking or interested in real programmes of transformation based around the customer.

Bringing councils together to learn and share from each other, RedQuadrant’s track record in this area will enable us to act as convenor and share our own perspective. The first event is on ‘channel shift – how to do it wrong’.

Looking at how channel shift and customer transformation really relate, and covering common misconceptions, what to avoid and how to take a more sophisticated approach, this will be an exciting opportunity to share knowledge and experiences with others on the same journey.

If this is something that you find as exciting as we do, drop us an email or give us a call for more information.

Customer focus 20 year on……..

I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with the customer. One way or another I have managed to spend   all of my working life (which is quite a long time) thinking about customer service. I started off as a classics teacher in a rather elite girls boarding school in Berkshire, trying to ensure my pupils lived up to their demanding parents’ high expectations – then I moved on to the John Lewis Partnership, and ended up serving some of the same parents in a rather different capacity.  John Lewis taught me a lot I suppose, after all it is surely the absolute pinnacle of customer excellence, isn’t it?! Yet it amazes me to this day that I and my fellow ‘Partners’ never once received any formal customer service training; what we did seemed to come genuinely from the heart and we did mostly really enjoy what we did (although running the Christmas stationery department two years in a row at the height of the festive season did rather test my customer tolerance levels…..).

Renouncing the retail world for something marginally more altruistic, I joined HM Land Registry and started working with conveyancing solicitors registering the transfer of property. This time I really was surprised – even though buying and selling our homes is such a significant and emotional experience, the word ‘customer’ was itself alien and the concept of speedy delivery clearly anathema. My claim to fame was becoming the first ever Land Registry head office customer service manager in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and trying to get people to talk about something called ‘e-conveyancing’ – some people got it, but not as many as you might think.

A short spell at Lambeth Benefits Service brought me back to earth with a bump – the reality of frontline customer service was a big wake-up call, and what I learnt there has stayed with me ever since.  Multiple issues around the ‘front/back office divide’, extreme customer poverty and vulnerability, and entrenched organisational stasis influenced my emerging perception of customer insight and its use. Luckily the new Service Transformation team at Cabinet Office together with Sir David Varney (remember him??) were interested in my experiences, and that became the new heyday of customer insight, the delivery council, channel shift, customer journey mapping, customer segmentation etc. etc.. (We produced a lot of manuals!)

Five years later I have long since left the Whitehall world of strategy behind and I find myself, as part of RedQuadrant, practicing just what I used to preach – and there isn’t a single day that goes by when I don’t talk about the customer.  The days may have long gone when we talked about offering our service users absolutely everything they wanted, and the stark reality of year-on-year funding cuts means that we have to approach service delivery in innovative and efficient new ways; but  customer need still lies right at the heart of what the public sector does and the challenge of meeting it remains so important. I’ve had the pleasure of working with several councils over past months (Reigate and Banstead, Islington, Plymouth and Merton, to name some) whose relentless focus on the customer even in the most pressing of times reminds me that my own obsession isn’t quite so unusual, and that whatever we call it (customer transformation, customer focus, service transformation, customer insight…..) it’s still a worthy cause and there’s always something new to learn!

Sarah Fogden

Trending topic: Integrated care

In 1948, The NHS was founded to provide healthcare to all who needed it, free at the point of delivery. In the same year, The National Assistance Act established social care as a separately funded, means tested service. Care and health have remained largely separate ever since.

But we are now 65 years on – the world has changed. People live much longer – a good thing! –but as a consequence  many people live with long term health conditions. This creates pressure on both the health and social care systems. People over 65 occupy a significant percentage of hospital beds and require more care and support at home. The boundaries between health and social care have thus become increasingly blurred, with more people having a mixture of needs that are hard to compartmentalize. In the meantime immense pressures on local authority funding lead to increased rationing of publicly funded care, whilst the NHS remains a universal service to all.

It is time we started to think differently; we need to create a new model of integrated health and social care that is more sustainable, better coordinated around the needs of people,  and focused on services in people’s homes rather than long term care in residential settings.

There have been endless reviews over the years, the latest of which have led to the Care Bill currently before parliament which will modernise the legal framework for social care and address the funding issue of capped costs. The stated ambition of government is that health and care will be joined up by 2018 but some fundamental questions remain: who should be entitled to health and social care and what should that entitlement be? where should the balance of responsibility between the individual and the state sit? how do we make a service universal yet means tested?

Of course this then leads to wider questions around well being, and how government can best support local services that actually improve people’s well being and prevent them from entering the health and social care system. As new local arrangements are set up  through Health and Well Being Boards, with health commissioning transferred over to Clinical Commissioning Groups and Public Health becoming the responsibility of to Local Authorities, does this present us with new opportunities to get this right?

Some call it transformation, others integration … but whatever you call it locally, here at RedQuadrant we are helping organisations to work across health and social care to tackle these problems and find sustainable solutions that both manage the new demand and improve outcomes for people. We have a range of specialists with expertise in health and social care who can help you deliver your vision for integrated care, supporting you and helping you prepare for the forthcoming changes in the Care and Support White Paper.

If you are looking for help to develop your plans, or accelerate existing ones into reality, please contact Frank Curran for an initial conversation – or 07515 875381.

Trending topics: Promoting permanency

The Children and Families Bill aims to level the playing field for all children and young people ‘to succeed, no matter what their background’. It focuses on the need to place children in permanent and stable homes with a loving carer as early as possible, enabling positive attachments to be formed and sustained. Building on the reforms suggested in An Action Plan for Adoption: Tackling Delay, the Bill: promotes ‘fostering for adoption’ so that children are placed sooner with families that are likely to adopt them; ensures that searching for a perfect or partial ethnic match does not become a barrier to finding a child a parent; improves support for adoptive families; and creates a new power for Ministers to drive an increase in adopter recruitment by requiring outsourcing if necessary.

The refocused scrutiny on permanency options means a necessary shift in priorities for care services. They will need to move away from linearity and instead develop internal capabilities to plan effectively within each child’s bigger picture. RedQuadrant have a team of specialists with expertise across all aspects of children’s social care. Building internal capacity and capability is a big part of what we do and our ability to bring in consultants with deep knowledge of specific areas including fostering and adoption means that we are well placed to support local authorities in this re-prioritisation.

If you would like to learn more about how we can help and how our unique approach to permanency planning can bring about real sustainable changes to improve services to children, drop us an email or give us a call for an initial conversation.

Trending topics: The Mutuals Support Programme

The MSP is a Cabinet-Office managed £10 million fund that provides professional support to new and developing mutuals so they can overcome barriers to growth. It procures services for eligible organisations, helping them to develop by providing professional expertise and advice whilst simultaneously building a valuable knowledge sharing database. Since making the first awards in June 2012, over £1m worth of professional advice and support for 21 live and developing mutuals has been procured. The government aspires for one million employees to be in public-sector mutuals by 2015. Are you one of them?

For more information on how we can support you in delivering alternative service delivery models, including creating public service mutuals, see our webpage for more information.