News : Hull Council's 300300 Service Slammed as 'Appalling' with People Left On Hold for 40 Minutes
Hull, England, Sept 10, 2019 -- Angry city councillors have labelled the authority's 300300 call centre service "appalling and unacceptable".
They hit out after a new report revealed financial penalties were being applied to contractor Civica over its repeated failure to achieve one of its key performance-related targets for answering calls.
The company started its five-year contract to operate the council's call centre service in December 2016.
Since then, it has yet to hit a monthly target of answering all calls within 180 seconds.
The latest figure for July this year show just 59.7 per cent of calls from the public were answered within the three-minute target.
At a scrutiny meeting councillors said some residents were having to wait up to 40 minutes to speak to an advisor while others simply gave up.
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Councillor Dean Kirk said: "We must have the worst telephone service of any local authority in the country, it's appalling.
"I actually sat with a resident at their home trying to get through to speak to someone and it took 40 minutes.
"That is ludicrous and simply not acceptable, we are letting people down big style."
He also described the weekend 300300 service as "terrible".
"I just don't think it's fit for purpose," he added.
Councillor Jackie Dad said: "The waiting times to get through are absolutely unacceptable.
"A lot of people just give up hanging on the phone for so long and then blame the council, which is not fair."
Committee chairman Councillor Sean Chaytor said the poor service was currently putting people off from reporting issues such as fly-tipping.
"When people are having to wait 40 to 45 minutes to get through, that tells me something is not particular great."
Some councillors also expressed concerns over callers being told in repeated automated messages to consider the option of contacting the council online when they just wanted to speak to someone.
The call centre takes around 80,000 calls a month.
Figures for a 12-month period up to July also shows Civica failing to meet a customer satisfaction target for seven straight months from January this year.
Lisa Buttery, the council's head of customer service, said company bosses had pledged to make improvements to the service.
She said the firm blamed the situation on a high turnover of staff, others being switched to a different contract, the introduction of a new computer system and the need for extra training for some call handlers.
Ian Anderson, the council's director of legal services, insisted the council was not taking a "light touch" approach to the issue but refused to say whether any premature termination of the contract was being considered.
The contract is due to end in September 2021 with an option to extend it for a further 12 months.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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