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Title: The public services' customer as talk, text and technology : a constructionist study of customer relationship management in English local government
Authors: Richter, Paul
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: E-government began to take shape at a local level in the UK at the beginning of the last decade, promising a transformation in the delivery of public services. A core element of this transformation effort entails the implementation of new organisational technologies; of particular note is those designed to support customer relationship management (CRM). The main protagonist (rhetorically at least) in the unfolding of local e-government – the public services’ customer – is of chief concern in this thesis. While there is a well-established academic critique of customer-focus in public sector contexts, little is known about how the notion is being played out in the practice of e-government – it is here that this thesis is located. The single case study research design is underpinned by a social constructionist epistemology and employs a discourse analysis approach. The methods used are open-ended interviews, observation, and document analysis. In addition to the significant role played by CRM-supporting technologies, the research findings identify a multi-faceted customer-focus framework – in the shape of a new institutional home, the restructuring of roles and responsibilities, the reorganization of workflow, and a cultural reorientation – which is serving to scaffold and ‘perform’ the public services’ customer. Thus, in the face of organizational ‘resistance’ and the academic critique, it is argued that the linguistic and material instantiation of a customer-focus narrative is a significant discursive achievement, one that relies on the remarkable appeal and versatility of the ‘customer’. It is claimed that the thesis’ findings and its explanatory framework constitute both empirical and theoretical contributions to a number of disciplines. In conclusion, implications are drawn for the relationship between state agencies and the individual and it is argued that a more ambitious relationship requires more innovation and, crucially, more imagination.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:Newcastle University Business School

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