The customer is the most important person on our premises

After recent events, there is an outcry and the behaviour of staff has been damned. But will the service and systems these service users found themselves in be heavily scrutinised and changed or, over time, will the status quo prevail?  What is it about human service systems that seems to create these scenarios where people feel it is legitimate to not cater for their customers key needs and treat the customer at best as hindrance and what do we need to build in to ensure that caring is at the core of the service provided?

There are many examples of excellent service provision in human services, with staff going above and beyond, especially in the recession, to cover hours and support people to live the best quality of life possible. But  in contrast, as we saw last night, why did the system fail the service users so significantly, the very people the service was set up to serve?

A few people in response to this issue feel that services, in addition to the quality standards already created, have identified a  need for some type of ‘secret shopper’ system. This system would allow the direct observation of what is going on in services, meaning the staff know that at any time, someone could be observing their behaviour. An interesting idea.

Another way to ensure that services deliver quality care is to provide the service users, families  and the frontline staff with a clear voice. Many people in services  at the moment are voiceless. The three woman shown were voiceless in their care. How can we build a system that ensures that a person’s voice is not only heard but acted upon?  A system that can ensure that staff are ethical and person centred in  their practice and are listened to when issues arise.

As Mahatma Ghandi stated, ’the customer is the most important person on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption to our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider to our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to do so.’

While acknowledging the good practice that is carried out by staff in services every day, all over the country, let us ensure that all services are fit for purpose by  supporting real advocacy and ethical, trained, caring,  person centred management and staff to provide the support the customers deserve.


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