Private or Public Sector – what is the difference?



There seems to be a myth that there is a world of difference between customer service in the private and public sector and I ask the question – is there?

True, in the public sector you may have customers who have no choice but to interact with you whereas in the private sector your customers can generally choose their supplier. True, in the public sector you may be interacting with customers who are vulnerable but particularly in these difficult times, that could also be said for customers of the private sector. Whilst the public sector is generally non profit making, both sectors are working to budgets and are accountable for their costs.

Surely the skills required to serve customers in both the private and public sectors are the same. Research over the years has come up with the top requirements from customers:

  • Effective problem solving
  • Efficiency
  • Timeliness
  • Professionalism
  • Easy to do business with

The public sector seems to be increasingly striving to focus and improve their customer service. But in some areas of the private sector the focus is on the bottom line and cost cutting rather than investing in their service and meeting the basic needs of their customers.

There are lessons to be learnt from both the private and public sector – the needs of your customers are not going to be fundamentally different so take a step back and ask yourselves are you meeting the five customer requirements? If the answer is no to any of these, consider your experience of being a customer – from which organisations do you experience service excellence? They may not be within your sector or industry but there could be lessons of best practice which can benefit your organisation.


Annie Mulady

Director of Mulady Solutions


Consistent Service is Critical

As a customer, it is not my problem if you or your staff, are having a bad day. A recent event highlighted to me why consistent service is critical to any organisation and how having a bad day can have dire consequences.

I am a regular traveller on my local railway line and know by sight most of the conductors. On this day a couple of business people were sitting next to me in the carriage and clearly visitors to the town and not sure of what train changes they needed to make. The conductor appeared and the ladies asked him several questions about how they should proceed with their journey. This conductor is usually very cheerful and incredibly helpful but was clearly having a bad day as he barked at the passengers and seemed quite put out that they did not know what to do to get the right train.

I sat there and watched the whole incident and my immediate thought was ‘oh dear he is having a bad day’. Once he had moved on the two ladies expressed their dismay at being treated so badly and still not being clear on where they needed to go – I intervened and whilst not being an expert on railways, was able to tell them where they needed to change trains and which platforms to use.

However, they left the train with what can only be described as a bad taste in their mouths – their experience had not been good, and they are likely to tell everyone who is prepared to listen of the poor service.

Now I obviously do not know what put the conductor in such a bad mood that day but frankly it is not my problem, as a customer we do not care if the cat has been run over or you have had a row with your partner, we just want to be treated in a polite, professional manner.

The cloak of good service is critical – leave your problems at home, in the car or in your locker and continue your day with a genuine smile on your face and a positive attitude or you will create issues that do not need to exist.

So, take a moment to consider the consistency of service in your organisation. Do your people appreciate the impact they have on your customers? Are they motivated to want to give good service even on a bad day?