It might come of a surprise to many that Eurobodalla Shire Council has been placed first in Australia’s local government sector for its customer service ‘Mystery Shopping Benchmark Program’. Not because the Council staff don't deserve credit for their professionalism in the way they go about their daily duties but because no-one knew the General Manager was spending $46,000 a year to have Mystery Shoppers drop by and pretend to be ratepayers. Apparently in July 2014, the General Manager initiated the ‘Mystery Shopper’ program with the aim of improving Council’s customer service performance. Councillor Brown, while handing out bouquets to the GM on the results of the tabled report that showed Eurobodalla was First Place revealed that Dr Dale had mentioned the "Mystery Shopper" idea during her job interview saying she had used it to "great effect" in a previous council. The report to Council today advised that "the purpose of the initiative was to ensure that Eurobodalla Shire Council was providing responsive and consistent customer service across the organisation and that Council were assessed by an independent quality assessor. The Mystery Shopper program was undertaken on a quarterly basis and involved staff from CSBA ringing and visiting Council as ‘mystery’ residents with a common local government enquiry. It measures staff greeting skills, manner, enquiry resolution skills, communication skills, connection time and voicemail use." Initially $35,000 in the first year it then grew in elements reviewed to cost $46,000 and remains at $46,000 for this year. General Manager Catherine Dale assured Councillors that this was money well spent and it only represented 0.04% of the annual budget. Catherine Dale explained to Councillor Nathan that Customer Service Benchmarking Australia (CSBA) carries out Mystery Shopping with other Local Government Councils and it was their capacity to benchmark that made it the choice provider. CSBA states on its website that it has 60 Councils nationally as clients. At this point I feel compelled to mention that the Australian Local Government Association advises that there are around 537 local government bodies in Australia so the opening statement of the Executive report "Eurobodalla Shire Council has been placed first in Australia’s local government sector" is not the whole truth. Maybe the following might have been more accurate "Of the sixty Council's CSBA has as clients (which represents only 11% of the total Local Government councils in Australia) Eurobodalla has been placed first with the next two CSBA reviewed clients being Blacktown City Council ranked 2nd and the City of Perth ranked 3rd. Many don't know that our Eurobodalla General Manager is an expert in the area of Performance Monitoring and Reporting having written the forward to "A Practitioner’s Guide to Implementing a Performance Monitoring and Reporting Approach" written by team of people and given to a consultant to bring together when she was CEO at Bayside City Council in Victoria. Of interest is Section 3 of that paper. So whilst the Customer Service Benchmark report was delivered, and the recommendation enacted that Council congratulate the General Manager and staff for achieving first place in the Australian local government sector ranking for Customer Service general enquiries for its Mystery Shopper Program for the quarter ending March 2017 the question remains as to whether the Councillors feel that this is money well spent at a time demanding fiscal constraint. Before closing the discussion on the matter Mayor Innes told the gallery and the home viewer that she felt customer service is the most vital role of Council and that it was terrific that we were setting a standard and over recent years have made enormous inroads into this space where we not only feel it but can now measure it.