Sutton council has adopted resident-focused techniques to transform the way it deals with people

There has been a revolution in the way councils provide customer services over the past 10 years.

Once thought of as simply ‘back office’ contact centres, the most forward-looking councils are transforming their customer services.

In Sutton, we have reviewed and reorganised our customer services to bring together our face-to-face reception services, telephone, web and emerging mobile services. At the same time, we have developed a social media policy that allows staff to develop Twitter services with confidence. My favourites are @suttononline and the amazing @suttongrit. We have tried to be clearer about the level of service we can provide and we want to go even further in building the links with our library services.

There is a now faster direct link between the face-to-face and telephone contact and the real time improvements we can make to our web and mobile services. That means we were able to ensure, for instance, that a resident and her young children – homeless as a result of domestic violence – did not get a parking ticket that would have revealed her whereabouts to her violent partner.

But as councils continue to face staggering financial challenges and much of the time is spent grappling with the demands of delivering savings and transforming our services we must not lose sight of what really matters in customer services – our residents.

A national review of the small number of complaints that get through to the final stages of the local government ombudsman service revealed there are still cases where councils have not explained things clearly, where delay has led to injustice or where councils did things more for their own convenience than that of their residents.

There are three things we could all do: read on here