News : Council Takes Action to Improve Slow Response to Customer Calls
Somerset, UK, Aug 18, 2015 -- Measures have been put in place to speed up South Somerset District Council (SSDC) switchboard response times after the system was subjected to friendly fire.
A number of councillors were so concerned about slow response time they made complaints themselves, saying the "apparent lack of responsiveness" could cause frustration and disappointment.
A report prepared for SSDC’s Scrutiny Committee said: "A number of Scrutiny Committee members have experienced long waiting times and had to abandon calls on several occasions when contacting the council through the main switchboard number.
"Scrutiny members believe that problems have been experienced over the last six months and now the unusual peak of the election is over they believe that there are still perceived delays in speaking to an advisor."
It has not been possible to produce statistics on response times because there is no such system in place.
The report continued: "Unfortunately, there has been no ability to measure the call answering time since November 2014 when the then call management system was switched off.
"Performance in the first quarter 2014-15 was: 70.5 per cent of calls answered within 30 seconds and 79.2 per cent of calls answered within 60 seconds.
"While this is slightly below the annual target, it is consistent with performance of previous years as the first quarter is a high demand period.
"Without a functioning phone management system it is impossible with certainty to identify any causes.
"Certainly there have been some unusual workloads (the new electoral system would have been one of these) and we believe that many of those may be repeat callers or members or officers using the customer contact centre instead of ringing officers directly.
"The organisation has also started new areas of work, some of which have had a significant impact on the number of calls."
The target times are 80 per cent of calls answered in 30 seconds and 90 per cent of calls answered in 60 seconds. But a number of measures have been put in place to improve response times. These include the following:
- Produced a key number phone list for councillors so that they do not use the customer lines simply to be put through to specific officers or teams.
- Advised staff that they must not use the customer lines to be put through to a member of staff. l Changed contact details on a number of processes where a direct number is preferable, reducing the load on the customer lines.
A clearer picture of the situation is expected when a new system is in place.
The report said: "As soon as we have a functioning new call management system we will return to presenting performance information within the quarterly performance update.
"Indeed, the new system should give access to a wider range of management information than we had previously."
In terms of staff, the Customer Contact Centre has about 13 full-time equivalent staff at the moment.
The report explained: "This was reduced from 16 in 2009 (19 per cent reduction) and nearly 30 in 2004 when the service was set up. The number of calls, however, is only 13 per cent less than in 2004.
"We have recently appointed two fixed-term contracts for a period of six months. This gives us extra resource whilst the technical issues continue and will alleviate the effects of summer time holiday across the team."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About South Somerset District Council:
South Somerset is a local government district in Somerset, England. The South Somerset district covers and area of 370 square miles ranging from the borders with Devon and Dorset to the edge of the Somerset Levels.
Published: Thursday, August 20, 2015