June 21st, 2012

Management speak with forked tongue

Posted in The Job - Comment by 200

So the HMIC has released a report about how police deal with anti social behaviour victims.

The only surprise is how many people are satisfied with the police response. I’d have thought it was far less than two thirds, judging by the amount of ASB jobs we either don’t get to within any meaningful time or don’t get to at all.

It’s all very well trumpeting to an aggrieved public and a frustrated public that anti social behaviour is at the top of the list, but when you want to increase attendance at something without any extra resources – indeed with much fewer judging by how many front line officers are being cut – then you have to decrease something else. With chief constables now promising to see more victims of anything, let alone anti social behaviour, then something has to give.

I was interested in a couple of comments the HMIC made regarding his report. Vic Towell, Assistant Inspector of Constabulary, told a press conference that call centre operators were reluctant to ask victims of ASB whether they felt vulnerable or had any long term illnesses or diseases – they two key questions which someone has decided will prevent people from killing their children and themselves due to failures of the police to deal with ASB. He said: “One of the problems with customer relations management systems is they tend to be drop-down menus, tick box and ask these questions. It’s very easy to forget there’s a person at the end of the line. I’m sure we’ve all suffered from this with call centres – you want to be treated as a person and they’re treating you as number 55 in a queue. We’ve just got to shift that culture now of thinking of people as people at the end of the line, and not as a caller to be dealt with, recorded and then move on to the next one.”

Which is fine, except when you give the call centres targets for answering the phone lines whilst on one hand saying, the needs of the caller are paramount and if you need to spend more than the average amount of time allowed for a call, then so be it, and on the other hand berating staff because they have not met the call handling targets and are spending too much of their time dealing with people’s problems rather than answering the next call.

Further, the trouble with tick box delivery of service is the same as what happened when they decided that anyone subject of a racist incident is a candidate for an enhanced service, people will say they think it happened to them because they are Asian, black or whatever, whether it did or not, the amount of jobs which mention a racial element shot up, and I’m not convinced  it was just people feeling Ok to report it now when they didn’t before.

So if you say that vulnerable victims or people with long term illnesses will get an enhanced service and someone will actually turn up on their doorstep within a reasonable amount of time, then you can bet everyone suddenly feels vulnerable.

Meanwhile, the real vulnerable victims will slip through the net while we are busy treating everyone who answers the tick box questions correctly the same way.

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