I received an interesting email today from the Head of Customer Development at a large local authority. He asked whether the different relationship that public sector suppliers have with "customers" should dictate any differences in approach.
My answer was that, although the different relationship entails some surface changes to approach, the core remains very much the same. It means, for example, that there is little point in asking conventional loyalty questions like "will you still be a customer" or even the ubiquitous "would you recommend", but customer satisfaction is still very relevant.
The starting point, whatever your organisation, should be to think about what your desired outcomes are. In the private sector, the company may want increased customer retention, higher sales, larger market share, higher profits and so on.
What are the equivalent desired outcomes for the public sector? Once those have been pinned down it will be much easier to see how to approach both service delivery and customer research. For instance you might set goals based on reducing complaints, or increasing satisfaction as an end in itself, rather than as a step on the road to greater profits.
What do you think—are public sector "customers" fundamentally different from private sector customers? Should public sector organisations manage their customer relationships differently?