Weeknote #5 Customer Service Programme

This period’s weeknote shines a light on the User Research activities of the Customer Service Programme.

The User Researcher will plan, design and carry out research activities with users to help the team to get a deeper understanding of our customers. Our User Research Coach, Richard Smith (Methods) has also been instrumental in the skills and knowledge transfer amongst the programme’s team of researchers, and this is his update:

Good things

As Sheraz Yaqub mentioned in our last note, we have been sharing our research findings back to our colleagues in services and senior stakeholders across our Creators and Navigators workstreams.

Our Creators workstream covers key services offered by our Waste and Recycling, Housing Repairs and Highways teams. For our Navigators workstream, we have been working with colleagues in our Bereavement Services.

We hope to understand the needs of our users much better
We hope to understand the needs of our users much better

For each of these service areas, we set out to conduct user research to understand the experiences of customers accessing key council services and of staff who deliver those services. This will then help us to look to the future and come up with things we can do to make things better.

I’ve been working with colleagues as our User Research Coach, supporting the team where ever I can to conduct high quality, safe and ethical user research. I’m also part of the team which brings the voice of people we’ve chatted with to life; telling a truthful, compelling story that helps shape that positive change.

During our research playbacks, we’ve been talking through 4 key cross cutting themes that have come out from user research we have conducted with members of the public:

  • Communication – people want to keep kept informed and engaged throughout the whole time they are interacting with a council service. This includes being asked to provide meaningful feedback at the end which can genuinely shape services in the future.
  • Transparency – people feel that decisions aren’t made transparently and are unsure why things happen (or why they do not happen)
  • Being proactive – people expect the council to anticipate their needs and be aware of potential issues without a customer having to report it
  • Empathy – whilst there were some examples of good customer service, people recounted examples where they felt they weren’t treated in the way they expect.
Contact Centre staff interactions are key to good customer experience
Contact Centre staff interactions are key to good customer experience

We are using these 4 key insight themes from customers to frame service specific insights we’ve gathered from everyone we have spoken to. This helps us to see customers holistically, appreciating people’s needs are broader than the individual services that the council offers.

Over the past few weeks during our playback sessions, I’ve been so impressed with the amount of amazing work the team have delivered, especially colleagues in the team who are just starting out in their user research careers. It’s just great to see new people joining the user research profession and establishing it within the council as well as within local government as a whole.

Once our user research playback sessions have been completed, I’m keen for the team to share our user research along with what we’ve learnt with other local authorities to continue to shape and build our profession in local government.


It’s been difficult getting in user research playback sessions with service leads and senior stakeholders, especially with the Easter holidays on the horizon. However, thanks to Nikki Spencer and Azim Akhtar getting things booked in, I think we’ve got there!

What’s next

The team will be continuing with service specific user research playback sessions for the Creators workstream.

For our Navigators workstream, the team will be working with Bereavement Service colleagues to understand what might be required to implement some of the key recommendations from the research.

Persona's created as part of the Bereavement Service discovery
Persona’s created as part of the Bereavement Service discovery

Our Engagers team will be working on developing what the council’s Customer Panel and customer centricity staff training will look like and realising a people first culture.

Unfortunately, my time on the project is coming to an end. It has been a pleasure working with the team and I will be supporting on the side-lines to support the team where I can to shape the positive change the people of Birmingham deserve.

For more information, email the team: [email protected].

Guest blog written by Richard Smith (Head of User Research – Methods)

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