Citation Simmons R, Birchall J & Prout A (2007) Hearing Voices: User Involvement in Public Services. Consumer Policy Review, 17 (5), pp. 234-240. http://direct.bl.uk/bld/PlaceOrder.do?UIN=219108318&ETOC=RN&from=searchengine
Abstract Modern public services demand greater awareness of who they are trying to serve. Managing relationships in the service of the public therefore requires the ability to ‘tune in’ to who public service users are, and what they are trying to say. This article examines the nature of the relationships between service users and providers through various mechanisms of voice. It suggests that if the user voice is to be recognised and acknowledged, a range of channels should be provided that cater for the values, norms and attitudes of a differentiated user constituency. Beyond this, however, it suggests that the simple provision of a range of channels is insufficient. Resistance to hearing the user voice through one or other of these channels can result in counterproductive ‘culture clashes’ and/or withdrawal. The article argues that this should be avoided through a combination of appropriate institutional design and the commitment of institutional effort to ensure that service cultures fit better with users’ expectations.
Keywords public services; cultures; Public administration Case studies; Local government Great Britain