How to get good Customer Service DNA for your organisation or team was the theme at this year's National Local Government Customer Service Network conference at Eaglehawk Resort near Canberra but it was 'share the love', the catchcry of Oprah fan and outgoing NLGCSN President, Pauline Webb, that was echoed from the floor.
This was a conference with a difference for lots of reasons, but the chief one being that it was organised by and for the volunteer Executive of the Network, all Customer Service Managers in the sector themselves, not commercial interests. It was peer networking at its best.
Trust walk exercise at the conference
The network now has 93 members across all Australian states. They organise Council specific training, like this conference, and also group training in regions where enough members are interested in attending. They organise group deals on mystery shop services for members, share information about common issues (procedures and standard forms) and generally provide the invaluable peer support to people working otherwise fairly unsupported in the sector.
Well Done had people in Sales, Client Services, Operations and Training attending. There can be no better way for us to sit in with our clients (and others) and become acquainted with their concerns. The multiplier effect within our organisation when we all headed back to base was invaluable.
Topics this year included how and when to intervene when you have some toxic behaviour going on within the team; how smartphones are automating some of the easy enquiries and leaving Customer Service staff to handle more complex enquiries in person; the best ways to build a positive culture within your organisation, and how effective this can be when you create change with backing from the top.
This year Councils attended from all states - a first! The conference venue changes from year to year, and members are polled for suggested topics and speakers that they would like. Unlike parks, roads and facilities, the results of Council investment into Customer Service are less tangible, and as a result, Customer Service is usually the lowest priority for funding, even though improvements in productivity can ripple throughout the entire organisation. This is more than a shame - it is a waste - because often the real gains in productivity are created by learning from your peers at events like these.
Perspective can be a wonderful thing. I certainly found that many of the issues that we deal with in sales have customer service dimensions. For anyone working in Council Customer Service sector, this annual event is a must!
For more information about the National Local Government Customer Service Network go to www. csnetwork.com.au