Delivering the services

Communication and customer service are moving closer together than ever before. They have always been linked but in 2016 both have to absolutely work hand-in-hand for an organisation to be really effective. People also have ever increasing expectations of what service they should receive which is a huge challenge particularly to the squeezed public sector.

An example of the expectations people now have hit me today with two parcels that I was getting delivered. The first company sent me an email to tell me it would be delivered and then yesterday morning sent an update to tell me the hour that it would arrive. True to what they had said they arrived within the allotted hour which made it much easier for those receiving my package to work their day around the deliver to ensure they were in. It was a good service; I had nothing to complain about and I was left with a great feeling about the company. I would not hesitate in using them myself.

Contrast that with the service received today from a different delivery company. They alerted me late to the plan that they would deliver today. I never received any update about the time the parcels would be delivered and the only update was one to say that they had not been able to deliver the parcel. They made no attempt to leave the parcel out of sight even though there were many possible places to use. I then had to try and arrange for it to be delivered again. The website wasn’t helpful. It was not intuitive to use, it didn’t learn what I wanted to do and there was no easy way to make a complaint. In short, I would refuse to use them again.

People now expect that tracking parcels should be easy online. They should be able to find out where the parcel is and when it will be delivered. The same is true of all services. It is expected that customer service will be at the forefront including levels of automation. Unfortunately, many organisations have not yet grasped the need to invest in frontline services and in developing digital services. That has to be where we focus and invest for the future if businesses are to survive

 

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Keep the chat going

I got involved in a regular Tuesday night Twitterchat about strategic marketing communication subjects, with the hashtag #smxchat. Interestingly, tonight’s subject was about chats and who does them, the benefits and the pitfalls of organising and taking part in them. I have to confess that I have always loved taking part in online chats particularly Twitterchats.

The chats are a great way to meet new people who have a similar interest or shared experience and then discuss an issue. I have found them a great way to learn new things from people who are dealing with similar experiences. You can find people facing the same problems and challenges so it is a great way of finding out what other people may have done and share your perspective.

There are occasions when organisations or brands run such chats which are a great way of finding out more about products or giving your views of them. If brands are forward-thinking then they will take the opportunity of social media to really connect with their customers and gather vital feedback. It isn’t just for brands; it is for everyone including public sector organisations.

If we make the best use of technology then we should engage with the benefits of social media chats either as a way to discuss one issue or to connect with key members of staff. Success has to be linked to choosing something that matters to people or they are interested in. Then it is about having the right people on hand who can operate with emotion, feeling, as a human being, honestly and with the knowledge required.

The only problem I have is that with many of the Twitterchats I struggle to make the fixed times when they are held and find myself playing catch up. Among the noise on social media chats can get lost but I, like many, still value them.

 

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Feel the fear, and what do you do?

I hope everyone had a lovely bank holiday today, and for those that didn’t have the chance to enjoy the extra day off I hope there was a chance to make the most of the good weather. My day involved going out for a hack in the countryside with my horse. It is something I have done lots of times before without incident but it was different this morning.

It is almost two years since I last took my horse out and away from the yard where he lives. There have been a number of reasons why this has happened including work, his fitness and getting the trailer serviced. To be honest I have been making excuses for why I have not done it in recent months. The reason is that I have been afraid.

Fear is a natural part of daily life. It is when it starts to take over our lives that we need to put it back in the box or get it back in check. What I had been doing was seeing the worst in everything that I was going to do today. I was concerned about loading my horse on the trailer, I was concerned about the journey and how he would travel. I was apprehensive about what we may face on the hack and how he would react, and I was worried how he would feel and whether his arthritis would affect him.

In all those things I saw the worst case. Inevitably, it all went well and was really positive. I had a great day and so did my horse. But for a split second this morning I could have chosen to let fear take over and not gone. Instead, I took some deep breaths and concentrated on the moment, not thinking about what was ahead.

It is a reminder to me that fear is not something I should accept in my life. There are ways it can, and should be conquered, including having a positive outlook. As I sit here tonight, I know I kicked fear out of my life today and I am so pleased.

Edward goes hacking

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Overcome the barriers

When we are young people often tell us that we can’t do things. In many cases this is absolutely the case and obviously there need to be boundaries. But this should not happen when we are considering what we enjoy and what career we want to take. In the last couple of weeks many students have received both A level and GCSE results, and many will be considering what the future may hold.

It is a time I remember well because there were choices and decisions that had to be made once the results were known. There are always options available no matter what happens and this can still lead you to your chosen career even if you need to approach it from a different route.

I often go to school and college to talk about careers in communication, PR, journalism and the media. Many of the young people have no idea what they want to do for their career which I find hard to understand as I had known the path I wanted to take from primary school. The problem I had through secondary school was not trying to find out what I wanted to do but it was people trying to encourage me to have a back-up plan.

There was no back up plan for me. I was determined and would not listen to those that I felt wanted to put barriers in my path. It may have been a bit foolish but I wasn’t going to settle for second best. We are only here once so we need to make sure we make the best of it. For me, whatever role I do has to be something I am passionate about. We spend so much of our time at work that it should never be just a job we settle on. If we have a passion then we should follow it and we reach for what we want.

Never let people put barriers in front of you and your dreams.

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Three little words, three big values 

I have come to the conclusion that there are three things that I value highly both in myself and others. They are professionalism, integrity and creativity. I aspire to have demonstrate them whenever possible and definitely when I am under pressure.

People have said my standards and what I expect from people are too high. I don’t think so, what I expect from others I expect from myself. It may appear that I am harsh in myself but sometimes you need to if you are going to develop.

Professionalism is critical for me. To do my best and be continually learning is essential for me every day, week and year. Communication and PR is trying to move to be seen as a profession but to do that continual learning has to be undertaken by practitioners. Throughout my career I have been trying to learn and have always had a continuous professional development plan. 

This work is more critical now as I am leading the team which means I should be aware of industry updates. I should be looking to the future and the development of communication. I should be ensuring I am adequately prepared to lead and help the team.

Integrity is so important to modern PR and communication and to me. This is our credibility to operate and have the confidence of those we work with and for.  It is something we should think about more frequently and we should be really clear about the industry code of ethics that we must uphold.

These two elements, professionalism and integrity, operate hand in hand and must be at the heart of every communicator. Finally, there is creativity. We all come into the industry to use it and develop it but somehow we often lose it. We cannot perform the communication role effectively if we are not being creative, solving problems and trying new things.

Creativity is why I love communication. It is liberating and exciting and when it is used effectively it can have a positive impact on lives. We should all seek to have creativity in our lives on a daily basis.

I value the three elements highly and continue to aim to demonstrate them in everything I do.

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15 years of learning

It has been a week to reflect, amid the turmoil of another busy time in work. I have had a chance to review the events from the past 15 years within my current role. Throughout the week I have looked at everything from what the state of the world looked like in 2001 through to all the colleagues that I have known. Today, I feel it is only right to round the week off by looking at what I have learnt from the decade and a half.

Sadly, when I was chatting to one police officer this week I suddenly realised he was still at school when I joined Greater Manchester Police. This is quite a scary thought and probably explains why I have recently invested in some anti-wrinkle cream! But on a positive note I have learnt so much from my time in the organisation.

I have always thought that communication was essential in the world but the years have shown me how critical it is to keep things running well. Without effective communication people get confused, lack understanding about events and society becomes fractured. When it exists people can understand each other and there is the ability to develop cohesion within communities. It might sound a bit far-fetched but I really think this is the case. Communication is what brings us together or can drive us apart.

The past 15 years have made me realise that the best communication teams are the ones that work together. Teamwork is critical and as I have mentioned earlier this week it is like a dysfunctional family. We always work best when we work together, each person playing their own part, bringing different skills and experience.

I have realised that I am more resilient and stronger than I ever thought I was. I have faced so many things and so far am still standing. There have been major tests of my communication knowledge and experience, and times when the work was almost 24/7. I have survived some weeks with only four hours sleep a night. I have worked weekends and turned out to deal with communication issues when everyone else is celebrating holidays. I have seen some terrible things and still find a way to identify what communication is required. Throughout the years I have continued to find ways to cope and deal with the tough days. I am still learning.

Above all I know now that if I love what I am doing and can see a real purpose for it, where it helps people, then I will give 24 hours of my life to doing it. Sometimes I do need to take time to regroup, recover and refresh myself. But while I have a passion for the work I will give 100 per cent. Fifteen years have flown by and in some ways I have changed. I am older, possibly a little wiser but even more dedicated to developing world-class communication. I wonder what the next 15 years may bring?

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Commitment, cake and colleagues

It is the people that can make an organisation. For me, who you work with is important to whether you are just going through the motions or you are able to really get involved and enjoy what you do. Over the 15 years that I have been at my current workplace I have lost count of how many people have been part of the same team. They have joined, gained valuable experience, contributed a lot and then moved on.

I have been lucky to have worked with some amazing and creative people. Individuals who will work round-the-clock to deliver results and are totally focused on making a difference to communities. They have a huge sense of pride in being able to support frontline police officers find criminals, help victims or encourage witnesses to come forward. I have often referred to the team as a dysfunctional family. We support each other, mainly get along, have some fall-outs but always make up and work together.

This may be something wider than police communication and I am sure many others may talk about teams in the same way. But I do think that because of the nature of the work police communicators do, how important it is in dealing with emergencies and because it is high stakes, that it brings people closer together. Over the years I have worked many late nights, early mornings, bank holidays and weekends as have my colleagues. When we have been in the middle of an emergency or a crisis we pull together and work as needed to reach the right conclusion. It is hard work, commitment and a large amount of cake and chocolate that sees us through, as well as a sense of humour.

In 15 years I have also had more bosses than I care to count. On a rough estimate it is reaching double figures. They have all been very different but when I look back there are always things I have learnt from spending time working with them. Some have been very interested in communication and others have been hands-off preferring to only get involved when it was absolutely necessary. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am not the easiest person to manage. It goes right back to my school days when I felt able to challenge the teachers about what I was being taught. I am sure to them it was a pain but for me it definitely helped my learning. That said, I think there are three key things that set apart those bosses that have been the best.

Firstly, they have been interested in communication, willing to get involved when necessary and have wanted to understand more. Secondly, they have allowed me the freedom to use my skills, knowledge and experience without micro-managing. Finally, they have been really clear about what was expected both from me and the team, without moving the goalposts. I am lucky that when it has worked well I have remained in touch with the boss and with a few can call them friends.

In 15 years one thing has been clear – it is the people that have made the work as enjoyable as it has been. On most days I don’t dread going to work, I relish it and I don’t worry about who I may be working with, I look forward to it. I have enjoyed being part of the dysfunctional family.

 

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