“What makes a director’s job impossible?”

You may have thought it was the year on year budget cuts; the rock bottom morals of a workforce that feels undervalued and much maligned; the over ambitious performance targets; the constant negative stories in the press; the gap between what the politicians promise and what can realistically be delivered; the constant stream of policy initiatives and the ever changing priorities; or the fact that those you do business with are always looking to gain at your expense.

These things make the director’s job difficult, but what makes it impossible is the response to a blue badge enquiry.

Blue badges are allocated to people who have mobility problems by local councils and allow individuals to use parking bays for disabled people.

Inner workings

A blue badge enquiry is an example of how an organisation deals with the most basic and simple request from a customer.

If the organisation fails the blue badge test there is little prospect of far more complex issues being dealt with; appropriate senior managers can have no confidence in their systems or people; and are faced with the realisation that even their direct intervention is no guarantee that what needs doing will be done.

‘It starts with an unhelpful response to a telephone enquiry, out of date information on the website or confusing advice from staff’

It starts with an unhelpful response to a telephone enquiry, out of date information on the website, confusing or contradictory advice from staff, a failure to ring back with clarification and a refusal to give a name and contact details of the relevant supervisor or line manager.

It is escalated by directing the dissatisfied customer to the complaints system with the implication that this won’t get you any further forward but it will allow you to vent your frustration to someone else.

Straight to the top

But the savvy customer might bypass systems and email the top person. This individual doesn’t get much direct contact with customers so is keen to respond positively and demonstrate this is truly a customer focused organisation.

The customer is surprised but pleased to get a same day response, which shows not only does the top person read emails sent to them, but they reply in person.

Looking at the time on the email it is clear the top person reads and responds to emails late into the night.

The response apologises for what has gone before and states that they will personally draw the matter to the attention of the individual with overall responsibility for the particular area and that contact will be made before the end of the week.

But then, two weeks later no one gets in contact. A new email is sent. Again a late night response is received apologising and saying whilst this service is not within their direct responsibility, they will chase it up first thing in the morning.

Any organisation where this happens makes the job of the director impossible. It happens a lot.