You might be forgiven for wondering why this blog on customer service is coming from HMRC’s Director-General, Enforcement and Compliance. After all, my teams are the ones you find knocking down doors, poring over offshore data, and asking searching questions of people who think they can get away without paying what they owe.
But tax compliance isn’t just about the sharper end of things, it’s also about how we help the honest majority get things right. So, in HMRC, we think of customer service and compliance as being two sides of the same coin – and that’s why I’m so pleased to be writing as champion of the very first Civil Service Award for Customer Service (nominations close soon, so do get them in!).
The way that people feel about an organisation is absolutely driven by their experiences of dealing with it. The old adage that if you have a good experience then you might tell a couple of people, and if you have a bad experience then you’ll be shouting it from the rooftops, definitely applies to HMRC, and to all public-facing departments and agencies across the Civil Service.
Customer service isn’t a bolt-on, or something that’s nice to do but not essential. It’s something that has a direct impact on the public, which in turn affects an organisation’s reputation and the public’s confidence in it. And that just brings home the scale of the challenge that all of us face in the public sector.
The Civil Service has as many – if not more – customers than even the biggest private sector companies. The public rightly expect the same high standards of customer service from us, as they do from any of the big high-street names. Perhaps, more so, as our services tend to be the sort that the public relies on in times of need or acute personal difficulty – be it support in finding a job, getting access to benefits, or help in extending their visa.
So, who should you be thinking about nominating for this new award? One, incidentally, that civil servants themselves said they wanted to see.
The award is about recognising colleagues who have demonstrated outstanding service to deliver the right outcome for our customers. I’ve seen plenty of examples of excellent customer service - both as a senior leader at HMRC, and as a customer (most recently from the wonderful staff at the Croydon Visa office, who helped me, as an Australian, extend my work visa).
Take five minutes to look around you, and I’m sure you’ll find plenty of examples of people or teams going the extra mile to deliver an exceptional public service. When you do, nominate them!
The award is also about recognising those individuals and teams who share best practice on customer service, which serves as a catalyst for transformation across the public sector.
So let’s use the new award to celebrate the ‘s’ in Civil Service. Customer service definitely isn’t just a nice-to-have – it’s at the core of what we do. Customer service matters – it matters to us as public sector bodies, and it matters to the people who rely on our services.
Nominations for the Civil Service Awards are open until Friday 15 July – and in the spirit of good customer service, and making things as simple and straightforward as possible, you can do it all through our quick and easy online form.
The last thing I’d say is, when you’re considering worthy nominees, take a look in the mirror and don’t be modest - the individual or team that deserves recognition could be you or yours!
I’m really looking forward to reading your entries. Good luck!