Westlake PD hires consultancy for customer experience improvement

27 July 2021 Consulting.us 3 min. read

Westlake Police Department, which serves the Westlake suburb of Cleveland, has hired The DiJulius Group, a Cleveland-based consulting firm, to help the police department develop a customer experience program.

The announcement follows a similar engagement that The DiJulius Group – a specialist in customer service training and consulting – completed for the Charlotte Metropolitan Police Department (CMPD).

“Working with the DiJulius Groups places increased focus upon customer service-driven police services, which is a realistic, immediately impactful method of addressing national concerns about police conduct," said Johnny Jennings, chief of the CMPD.

The concept of customer service/experience in the context of policing initially seems bizarre. For business organizations, customer service is an important investment area because it is a critical element in customer attraction, satisfaction, and retention. Police departments do not have to worry about a citizen being dissatisfied with their police service interaction because they cannot solicit the services of a competing department. 

Westlake PD hires consultancy for customer experience improvement

There is a reason going to the DMV, for example, is such a miserable experience – one cannot simply select a different provider to renew a license plate. The DMV has no incentive to provide better service to its citizens because it suffers few repercussions for organizational dysfunction. Police departments occupy a similar space.

What risks flow from poor customer service in the police context, other than the well-publicized citizen’s risk of being killed by an officer of the law? For elected sheriff’s departments, there exists the potential consequence of being voted out in the next election. For regular police departments, the chief may be pressured to step down after a police killing with particularly poor optics. Additionally, some officers may be convicted of murder instead of simply being acquitted, as observed in the landmark conviction of Derek Chauvin.

Police departments also have the incentive to make light public relations efforts that have the faintest veneer of reform but in effect maintain the status quo – and organizations of any stripe tend to prefer the status quo. This allows them to highlight active reform efforts while not actually addressing any of the severe problems in how policing is conducted in America.

“When you break it down, 97% of police interactions do not result in an arrest. Of the 2.8% that result in an arrest, 0.5% are violent crimes,” notes a press release from The DiJulius Group. “In 2020, CMPD had 514,000 interactions and 500,000 of them were non-life-threatening. That is where this work is focused.”

If police-citizen relations are to be framed within the context of customer service, however, they cannot be divorced from violent interactions. Police services primarily exist to protect the peace, not to wave cars through broken traffic lights or get cats down from trees. Every service interaction is a customer service interaction, including the ones where a citizen is shot by the police. Avoiding this area would be like management deciding to only focus on customer service calls where the employee doesn’t yell racial epithets at clients, when the company has a serious problem with call center employees yelling racial epithets at clients.

If customer service improvement at a police department does not incorporate the pivotal goal of reducing the frequency of death in police interactions, then public funds are targeting the wrong area.

That is obviously a more difficult and important problem to tackle, and includes immense challenges that span police culture, policies and training on use-of-force, militarization of police departments, and racial bias in police interactions. But as Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, and difficulty.”