Customer service remains excellent despite difficult times, says independent report .
An independent assessor has warmly praised Fenland District Council for the excellent way it treats all its customers. She said that it continues to perform very well despite inevitable difficulties caused by the Government’s spending cuts. High levels of customer service and satisfaction were being maintained and in some areas improved. The assessment was carried out by Sue Dowey on behalf of emqc Ltd. Her verdict is contained in a detailed, 12-page report examining whether the council has continued to comply with the national standards for Customer Service Excellence over the past 12 months. Councillor John Clark, FDC’s portfolio holder responsible for quality organisation, welcomed the report, saying it was “entirely down to the drive, enthusiasm and commitment of all our staff”. The report follows a two-day visit to the district in which Ms Dowey met council staff, partners and members of the public. She praises council staff for their commitment and their “passion and desire to provide the best possible customer experience at what are difficult times for local government organisations”. She says: “It is true to say that staff feel that customer service is paramount to the services they provide, albeit internally there are issues resulting from the Government’s spending review that is having an impact on staffing and resources. “I feel that the current local government climate could impact on frontline services but this certainly doesn’t appear to be the case at Fenland District Council.” The council’s performance is judged on five essential criteria: customer insight, the culture of the organisation, information and access, delivery, and timeliness and quality of service. FDC was deemed “fully compliant” in all five. Ms Dowey singles out Community House in Wisbech for special praise, saying it is “an excellent example of going that extra mile to help and support customers who live in a deprived area of the Fenland council services”. She quotes several comments from people she met. One customer described staff as ”always polite and friendly. I have had my problems with them in the past but they have always turned problems round quickly.” Someone from a partner organisation said: “Staff are willing to experience the real issues out in the community even at 6am in the morning and 10pm at night.” The report identifies a few areas for potential improvement. It says the council could be smarter in its use of “alternative communications” such as social media and could do more to inform customers about any delays in meeting its 10-day target for acknowledging written communications. It also suggests more could be done to market Fenland as a place to run a business or live. Ms Dowey concludes: “It is worthy to note that in my discussions with staff, partners and customers it confirmed that high levels of customer service and satisfaction are being maintained and in some areas of the service improved.” Cllr Clark said: “These are undoubtedly hard times for all local authorities, including ourselves. But this independent report proves that despite the many challenges the council faces we are continuing to provide excellent services to the people of Fenland. This is entirely down to the drive, enthusiasm and commitment of all our staff and clear proof that we are maintaining our very high standards.” Council Leader Cllr Alan Melton added: “This report couldn’t have been better. But it just confirms what we know already - namely that we have a terrific team of officers doing a great job in very difficult circumstances.”