Customer service excellence = innovation?

11 Mar 2008 by Karl Hallam

Minister for Transformational Government (that's not a made-up job title) Tom Watson announced a 'new standard to raise the bar for public services' this week. The Customer Service Excellence ('CSE') standard is interesting, because it aims to be a a practical tool that helps public services be more responsive to people's needs. Another of the Minister's responsibilities, as if transformational government were not enough to keep anyone busy, is the National School of Government, for which Cadence has been doing work on public service innovation - and Cadence wonders whether the obvious links between these two areas of work are fully appreciated.

Cadence's early findings in this area suggest that some of emerging innovation hubs' most exciting work is about working with users (and front line staff) both to define problems and to come up with solutions, 'co-creation' being the jargon for this. This goes against the grain of much that has been written on innovation: it is simple to understand, does not require any clever models, and is not dependent on technology.

Specifically, the aim of the CSE standard is 'to encourage, enable and reward organisations that are delivering services based on a genuine understanding of the needs and preferences of their customers and communities' ... This is definitely in the same ball park as our innovation research for the National School of Government. If the Minister for Transformational Government could come to see that innovation can be simple and is often about a genuine engagement with 'customers', then this could be a significant period for public innovation thinking.




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