Deputy Commissioner for Corporate Services in the New South Wales Police Force, Catherine Burn, has been nominated for the 2011 Telstra Business Women’s Awards for increasing customer relations within the police force and with the community.
It might be an idea only a woman could have come up with, but instituting a mystery shopper competition is one tool the New South Wales Police Force has used to successfully increase customer satisfaction and community trust.
As Deputy Commissioner for Corporate Services in the New South Wales Police Force, Catherine Burn is the country’s more senior female police officer. She’s served in the NSW police for 27 years, much of that on the street and as a detective in homicide before moving into operations a number of years ago.
Now it’s her job to ensure that some 20,000 police and unsworn staff have the capability, resources and capacity to do their jobs. That includes looking after a $2.7 billion budget, having a high level of customer service internally and externally and a range of duties which include dealing with 1400 police properties – like stations and rural housing – and maintaining a large transport fleet.
After Catherine became deputy commissioner says a number of changes needed to be made. The first was about perception.
“There was a perception that the corporate side of the police wasn’t there for the police officer,” Catherine Burn told Australian Women Online. “So there needed to be a cultural change, rather than a structural one. The changes we have been driving towards have included that our internal customer service is critical. We are there for the officers and have to provide them with what they need.”
Catherine also wanted to start changing public perception of the police as well and many of the changes she has instituted and pushed for have made her one of the four New South Wales finalists in the White Pages Community and Business Award category of the Telstra Australian Business Women’s Awards.
She’s “absolutely thrilled” by the nomination because it’s a chance to talk publicly and recognise the work they have been doing.
“If the community is going to have confidence in us, we have to serve the community properly. We have to be professional and legitimate. Our core business is to reduce crime but we need to do more because people still have a fear that they might become a victim of a crime. Making them feel safe and how we go about doing that is critical. We want people to report crime, so we’ve had to bridge that perception gap.”
One of the risks Catherine took was instituting a mystery shopper scenario. People approached police stations with common problems – like enquiring about how to deal with a neighbour’s noisy dog – to see how an officer would deal with them.
Designed to increase officer customer service when dealing with the public, the deputy commissioner says the program has been hugely successful and stations are now competing with each other to score the most points over the survey period.
“We didn’t want to alienate police but it was about understanding when someone walks into a police station they will generally feel intimidated. Often they are there because of an unfortunate event so the last thing we should be doing is enforcing that feeling.
“That program has been going two years. Now the cops are really competitive and they want 100 per cent every time. How good is that?
“The mystery shopper and other initiatives we have introduced show that women can have a different dimension and add a different perspective.”
NSW winners for the 2011 Telstra Business Women’s Awards will be announced on September 30 with the national Telstra Australian Business Women’s Award winners announced on November 18. For more information visit the website: www.telstrabusinesswomensawards.com
Photo credit: NSW Police Force website