The Lead Cabinet Member for Customer Services and Business Improvement presented the report which provided a review of the operational performance of the Customer Contact Service. The Customer Contact Manager and Deputy Head of Finance were also in attendance for this agenda item.
The Lead Cabinet Member highlighted the good career path the Contact Centre offered staff and that ICT issues had presented significant performance issues for the service. The volume of printing also impacted the Contact Centre, with one member of staff being deployed to support the reprographics service.
The Customer Contact Manager informed the committee of the following:
· The Contact Centre was trying to recruit six new staff members; it took three months to train a contact centre advisor on all council services and six months to fully train them. The full complement of staff was 25 staff members, which was standard for a council contact centre. The number of calls being received by the contact centre was also standard compared to other councils. The Benefits Manager and Customer Contact Manager were in the process of carrying out a benchmarking exercise comparing data from other councils.
· Four contact centre advisors were encouraging residents to use the Customer Portal; it was envisaged that use of the Customer Portal would reduce call volumes by 30%. However, it was pointed out to the committee that the types of calls that would be reduced by the use of the Customer Portal, were the calls that were more simple in nature and shorter in duration. The Customer Contact Manager anticipated it would take 5-6 years for the benefit of the Customer Portal to be fully realised.
· Contact centre advisors took their time with customers on the phone, some of which were vulnerable. Advisors were also being proactive with residents, notifying them of other services while they were on the phone; this increased call times and the call abandonment rate.
· January to March were peak call times and the service tried to backfill in order to build resilience for this busy time; this had however become difficult due to the competitive employment market. Work was taking place to streamline back office functions, which would help with capacity.
· The unexpected May 2019 EU Elections had presented challenges for the Contact Centre and had led to an increase in call volumes.
· The Contact Centre Manager explained a number of issues which had impacted the performance of the Contact Centre; telephony issues had led to increased call volumes, call waiting times and call abandonment rates. Issues with generic emails had also impacted the Contact Centre’s performance and had led to some targets regarding complaints being missed.
· When ICT issues were being experienced, the Contact Centre, which used BT Cloud, had to revert back to a switchboard system to be able to answer calls. Although calls could be answered, advisors could not fully serve customers as back office information required could not be accessed.
· In response to a request from a committee member for a standard deviation rather than averages being given in performance data, the Customer Contact Manager advised that the Contact Centre’s software only provided averages. This would however change with the introduction of a new telephony system, the purchase of which was being looked at in preparation for the contract with BT Cloud ending in July 2020. The new system would be used across all three partner councils.
· The Customer Contact Manager had been working with HR to look at ways to improve the recruitment programme, looking at models used elsewhere. An issue with this council was that it had a rural base, requiring access to a mode of transport to get to, which was an additional cost out of salary. Members were informed that this council did not receive applications from students. The Contact Centre was advertising widely and looking at a rolling quarterly advertisement.
· The Contact Centre offered an entry level role for staff to access jobs in other parts of the council; the challenges this presented for the Contact Centre were explained.
A member of the committee suggested the Contact Centre look to the local community of Cambourne from which to recruit, suggesting local social media forums, the residents magazine and websites were used to advertise vacancies. The Customer Contact Manager would liaise with the HR Coordinator regarding this.
The Scrutiny and Overview Committee noted the report and thanked the Customer Contact Manager and Deputy Head of Finance for attending the meeting, and informing the committee of the work of the Contact Centre and the challenges it faced.