Business Links, the agency which brings together small businesses, is set to standardise its service across the nation.
There has been widespread criticism that the 89 Business Links schemes around the country lack coherent policy guidelines. In response small firms minister Barbara Roche says the agency will be discussing measures to introduce a “compre-hensive range of national professional standards of competence for all those delivering Business Links branded services”.
A spokesman for the agency says it is not yet decided who would be approached for discussion. “However… I am sure we will be approaching design bodies,” he says.
In her vision statement to be unveiled today, Roche is also due to announce the establishment of centres for expertise and league tables to ensure customers know what they are getting. One of these centres may be devoted to design. The new measures will be put into place next year.
“We may have Business Links operating where a cluster of similar types of businesses are located. Next year we will decide what our priorities are in terms of specialisms. It could be that one of them is design,” says the spokesman for Business Links.
Roche will also announce that from next April each Business Links operation will be required to monitor its effectiveness in terms of the productivity, profit-ability and export performance of its clients.
The tables will list all client categories together, since each is concerned with the same criteria, says the spokesman.
Business Links will also step up its technology services. The first of these is a new network of video conferencing facilities to be offered at cut price.
“This will give small businesses access to overseas suppliers which they couldn’t previously have afforded. It will also enable them to modify documents,” says the spokesman.
Other measures will include a customer complaints hotline, a customer service statement and the development of a framework for the Business Links’ board development.