Court staff involved in customer and client interaction

Court staff throughout New Zealand have been sent to fast-food restaurants and hardware stores to upskill, but criminals should not expect to be offered a side of fries or a free hammer at their next court appearance.

Staff based at Palmerston North Courthouse - including security staff - were sent to either Bunnings, Subway or a bank for half a day on Monday to observe how staff there interacted with customers.

District courts general manager Tony Fisher said staff from Dunedin, Timaru, Southland, Christchurch, New Plymouth and Whangarei had also taken part in "organised visits" to other businesses, as part of "wider staff development".

"Our court staff, including court security officers, collections and registry staff, deal with the public in a number of different ways.

"It is important we keep on looking at how we can do things better and learn from others when we can."

The businesses visited ranged from government departments, including the Department of Conservation and Inland Revenue, to private companies like Farmers, Ballantynes, Mitre 10 and Noel Leeming. Staff were also sent to New Zealand Customs, Child, Youth and Family, Flight Centre and AA.

Fisher said all those businesses were chosen because they had a high focus on customer service.

Participating court staff would be taken to a business to observe how staff there treated customers, before being briefed about the businesses' philosophies towards customer service. Staff sometimes visited multiple businesses during the session, which could last up to three hours, Fisher said.

The visits had not seen normal court business affected, and no formal training took place, he said.

"This is to show our staff first-hand how a range of other businesses work with customers and clients, and to help us think of new ways to deliver better justice services to the public."

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said none of the businesses were paid for the visits.

Manawatu Standard