…you could easily pass out before getting an answer. I used to joke with my colleagues in a Public Sector Organisation that if I wanted to find out more about a potentially important issue, I could get better quality and more up-to-date information faster by using LinkedIn than I could from sending a request internally. I should say that my attitude to these matters has been largely shaped by the great work of many leading lights in the world of business and management who suggest that employees are essentially the customers of their managers. Its a widely, if not completely accepted belief in the area of staff engagement, that all the best employers treat their employees like volunteers. It may have taken a while but the advent of the Knowledge Economy has finally shifted the ground and Robert Greenleafs prescient notion of the Servant Leader is becoming reality.
This week I needed some information about something specific to my work and so I decided to use the power of online networking to make contact with a government department in Scandinavia, who I had heard knew a lot about the matter in question. Within two hours I had received a clear, unambiguous, honest and open reply from a senior official, along with some further information and an open invite to ask for more if I needed it. I was both heartened and saddened. I was heartened that some parts of the Public Sector world do and can work in the way that we instinctively feel that they should, in a simple unguarded and responsive fashion. And I was saddened because I work in a Public Sector climate in the UK where networks are woefully under-utilized, where knowledge sharing is not the norm and where requests for help are routinely ignored. I’ve had a query for information outstanding with a Public Sector body in England for more than a year now; after half a dozen emails and just as many telephone calls I have given up on the idea of ever obtaining a simple clear answer; but hey, I’m only a service-user and a taxpayer.
This week I also had cause to send an email to a Private Sector company about a problem with the phone lines that my Mum was experiencing. My Mums pendant alarm is connected to the phone service but she’s in her 80’s and is from the generation that “doesn’t like to make a fuss”. Within 12hrs I had received a call, an email and a clear course of action was laid out…the problem was fixed within two days. I’m not saying that every Private Sector company gets it right all the time; that would be untrue. But why is it that companies whose sole purpose is the pursuit of profit are continually able to run rings round the lackluster customer service cultures of the Public Sector…can the creation of wealth, as important as it is, really be a more worthwhile vocation than the service of the Public?