Posting Tweets throughout the day to highlight what the force was doing that day in my local area – which includes my hometown of Weoley Castle, as well as Quinton, Harborne, Edgbaston, Bournville, Cotteridge, Stirchley, Kings Heath, Kings Norton, Northfield, Longbridge and West Heath – there were reports throughout the day of crackdowns on crime including drug busts, road traffic accidents, suspicious activity reported by members of the general public and local businesses and even a lost puppy – all of which were followed up later on with news of how the incident was resolved (the puppy was found, safe and sound!).
I found the Tweets a fascinating insight into what my local Police force do on a day-to-day basis.
I wasn’t the only person who thought this – as the Birmingham South Police Twitter account shot up to over a 1000 followers throughout the day, and for those not familiar with Twitter, there was also a Birmingham South Police Facebook Page which also provided a mechanism to see what was happening and to provide feedback.
Now I know I’m not the only person who has at times bemoaned the fact that it “feels” there is never a Police officer around when you want one. I’ve heard this same complaint from neighbours and friends.
Statistics don’t make you feel safer
I’m also not the only person who doesn’t seem to find comfort in the fact that the Home Office announced that Crime figures had fallen 8% in the last Quarter. The statistic doesn’t make me “feel” safer.
Why is that? I think it’s because most people don’t relate to statistics, and instead go with how they actually “feel” based on what they observe.
I spoke to lots of friends and neighbours who had followed Birmingham South Police’s 24 hour Tweetathon yesterday, and without fail every one of them said something similar to “I had no idea of how much the Police do every day!”. From these conversations, I felt a sense of re-assurance and faith in the local Police Force that I hadn’t noticed before. These friends liked knowing what was happening locally – whether it directly affected them or not.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is – it’s all about communication, both giving people the opportunity to engage with you if they choose to do so, acknowledging them, and keeping people “in the loop”.
When I ran an MSP, I became very aware of the fact that we’d take clients on – it was typically when they ‘d been let down by other IT providers, their Infrastructure was in a shambles due to lack of maintenance, and IT was causing lost time and money on a day-to-day basis for their business. After we’d stabilised the situation with pro-active monitoring and maintenance, within months the client would often get to the point where they rarely needed to call upon our services to resolve problems – simply because the problems had ceased to exist. It’s at this stage that they started to question why they were paying for our services at all – after all, everything is now ok, right?
So the realisation dawned that it wasn’t enough to fix problems and proactive prevent others. The business had to be made aware of what we were doing for them, and how it helped them. We sent out Daily Reports, Weekly Summaries, and decision makers received Monthly Executive Summaries. On quiet days, we sent engineers to site to resolve problems that could be dealt with remotely – so we weren’t just a voice the end of a telephone. We regularly met with clients for Business Reviews – not just when there was a problem. Changes such as upgrades and patches were notified to the client in advance, along with reasons and timescales. Requests for support were followed up with regular e-mails and phone calls, both during and after.
Are you communicating well enough?
At times, the only complaint we got was that we “over-communicated”, and that’s a complaint a lot easier to deal with than having to to justify your continued existence to a client during a budget cut.
It doesn’t just apply to Service Delivery either. Ask yourself:-
- Do your clients know about all the products and services you provide?
- Do your partners and allies know about your latest successes?
- Do your prospective clients really know that you can help them with their pain points?
Whether the regular Twitter updates are to continue from Birmingham South Police or not, I’m not sure, but based on the Tweetathon I think those involved at the Police force should consider the experiment a huge success – they’ve re-assured people, and there are around 1,000 local residents (effectively, their “clients”) who now feel connected and acknowledged by their local Police Force.
It’s an experiment that many of us in all walks of business and life could learn from.