The shape of things to come
The big event of this week was of course the Budget; the last before the General Election in a few short weeks time.
But can we really say it is a true reflection of the state of the nation’s finances? According to Wednesday's budget comment in the London Evening Standard, 'In financial terms all those measures barely add up to a hill of beans in the overall context of what Government spends'. A £50 million project announcement is a powerful message but in fact is only 0.01% of total Governmental expenditure.
We all know that the budget is political as well as economical. For savers, borrowers, pensioners, young people and hard working families; a segmented message crafted for all in the hope of influencing our behaviours. As ever a Punch and Judy style debate ensued with the Opposition and even from 'partners' in the Coalition.
Figures of a different type featured across the channel in France; the French Government is passing a law to ban catwalk models with a body mass index of less than 18, on the basis that 'it is intolerable to exploit people commercially who are endangering their own health.'
BMI is a crude measure derived from dividing height by weight and it takes notions of obese and underweight from a global average. But what of the small body builder rippling with muscles unfairly classed as obese? It seems we are comforted by statistical averages regardless of their usefulness in helping us measure what matters.
This week CCA held its biannual forum in London for organisations that outsource their customer services to third parties.
Identifying accurate methods for measuring success was high on the agenda; for these organisations it is vital to strike the right balance between setting progressive targets and allowing their partner organisations enough latitude to do what's necessary to satisfy customers. This is no mean feat in an environment where there are more vulnerable customers than ever before, requiring greater skilled and empathetic services.
Society in general has become accustomed to stretched resources and rationing of human contact from the NHS to customer services, as managers in all sectors prioritise for optimum results.
The cross sector group shared valuable experience about how to develop better partnerships, and concluded that richer and transparent relationships with their suppliers was critical to success, more so even than the quality of contracts drawn up.
60% of the brands present used a mixed model of outsourcing in the UK and offshoring in several locations. Finding a common measure that provided reassurance as to the quality of customer service offered is a prize worth chasing in a complex multi channel environment.
Interestingly despite lots of challenges, none of the group wanted to change their outsource partner, but many wanted to revisit the contractual conditions of the service. The temptation of a default to using average handling time as a performance indicator was recognised as a danger to delivering better experience, but nonetheless it is still used too often in some outsourcing partnerships.
We are living in a world of coalitions, not just in the political world but in all sorts of service provision. We depend on providers to work together for the benefit of us all rather than becoming preoccupied with inner departmental power battles.
Perhaps our politicians could learn a thing or two from those who are passionate about improving services through better relationships - a cynic however might just say - Fat Chance!