from Norwich with love

by Darren Caveney

When you turn up at a local authority headquarters and you're greeted with the sight of a Jaguar jet fighter perched on display in the grounds, then you know that something a little bit special awaits.

That place was Norfolk County Council's offices on the outskirts of beautiful Norwich. The reason for the visit was for an innovative 'ideas exchange'.  

The exchange was organised with the fab Susie Lockwood. We went to share some of our learning around various aspects connected with social media and digital engagement, but equally we went to learn about evolving customer relations best practice.

 

Norfolk County Council (NCC) are leading the way in local government customer relations, putting customers first and embracing social media channels into their approach to looking after their customer's questions and queries quickly and effectively.

NCC consistently feature in the top three best performing local authorities for customer service in the country. Seeing their teams, processes and, most of all, their focus it was easy to see why. 

The challenge for NCC's comms team is a big one. Norfolk is the fifth largest county in the country, is made up of picturesque market towns and villages and boasts expensive coastal hot spots. In contrast it also suffers from areas of deprivation, large expanses of remote rural communities, poor broadband coverage and a lack of a single motorway.

Like other LA comms team up and down the country, NCC's comms folk face the common plate-spinning dilemma of doing more with reducing resources and blending traditional media with the new. And all for a diverse customer base of over 850,000 residents.

I picked up an awful lot from the day and much that can be fed into refining our own activities.

My top four key learning points from the visit:

1. Norfolk County Council are an example to many on how to deliver common sense, speedy and effective customer relations (and, interestingly, there was not a single flashing caller screen showing the team how many customers were waiting in a queue to speak with an operator, and in the process probably not contributing to the stress levels so commonly found in these teams)

2. Norfolk County Council get digital engagement and social media and do it well. Yes, they want to grow it and expand it even further but they have really sound communications foundations from which to build. This extends through to the customer services team being responsible for monitoring council social media channels and responding to customers same day. 

3. NCC's communications are all about the customer. And they have a really strong team committed to helping customers. There was a very clear sense of a strong team serving strong communities.

4. Norwich is beautiful. For many of us in other parts of the country it is a decent trek to get there. But it is so worth the trip. And it's about time a major comms or social media event for the public sector was staged there. 

So, an extremely useful and enjoyable day - and my verdict...

Norfolk and Norwich: Premiership football team, premiership communications & customer services team

Darren Caveney is co-creator of comms2point0