I continue to live a double life. Half my time is spent studying social policy, the other half in the call-centre.
I tend to view the call centre as a necessary evil; a mind numbing experience I put myself through to pay the bills. Its certainly not often the call centre teaches me much about social policy, but recently it has.
What I have learnt in the call centre is that whilst there is a lot of rhetoric about the importance of the customer and customer service it is the bottom line which matters above all else. The firms I provide customer service for have no interest in the customer beyond how to squeeze more money out of them.
This was brought home to me when I had to deal with a customer who was quite rightly unhappy with some aspects of the service they received from the company. They told me they would no longer be doing business with the company unless it changed the way it went about certain things. They had simply had enough and would vote with their feet.
I reflected that this would make no difference at all to the company. So long as the majority of customers continued to put up with things and enough new customers replaced the ones walking away it really didn't matter to the firm.
I contrasted this with my time at the council. If someone was unhappy with an aspect of the service their issue would at least be examined and a response provided, but in any case we just weren't happy with failiure, our business was to serve people so people counted.
All this has implications for social care. We are undoubtably edging towards a system with a bigger space for large scale private-providers. We need to protect the notion that above all else people matter.