Borough council pledges action on call waits

By Phil Stoneham   |   Reporter   |
Thursday 9th June 2022 11:00 am
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(Ron Lach Pexels )

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OFFICIALS are aiming to take away the pain of trying to get hold of West Devon Borough by phone, according to a new report.

The borough council has been on the end of a barrage of criticism – sometimes from their own members – over the length of time it takes to contact staff with problems.

Customers fed up with trying to contact staff have said they are waiting hours in a queue of other people, then giving up in despair.

Now council chiefs, who admit the service has not been ideal but is improving, are examining the results of a review, called for last November, to improve communication with members of the public. The review covered West Devon Borough Council and South Hams District Council, as they share staff at their Contact Centre.

A report on its findings says centre staff were ‘redeployed’ during the Covid-19 pandemic and adds that while they aimed to answer 80 per cent of customers’ calls, that did not always happen. It says that performance continued to be ‘challenging’ in the Contact Centre, set against the background of resourcing levels.

The impacts of Covid and queries over grants rolled out support local business during the pandemic ‘caused large call volumes however, call volumes have reduced in the last six months.’

The report, which describes the centre as a ‘vitally important front-facing service’ says: ‘It is important that we make contacting our council as easy as possible, with clearly defined access options and in the most efficient way, while supporting those who can to access our services online.’

Improvements to the service include better training for staff so a customer’s problems are dealt with following their first phone call and moving in reinforcements to cope with a higher volume of calls during busy periods.

The report says: ‘The Contact Centre aims to answer 80 per cent of calls within five minutes but this has not been delivered consistently.’

It says the call centre is fully staffed with 10.5 full time equivalents. There are 17 staff in total, many of whom are part time. There are six vacant posts currently filled by agency staff.

It adds: ‘Queue buster is available on all lines to reduce call abandon rates and to offer greater flexibility to our customers. This allows the customer the option to leave their details and be called back rather than wait in a queue.’ The report says 184 customers used the system in March and 94 per cent of customers then answered when the system called them back. It adds the reception area at the council’s headquarters, Kilworthy Park in Tavistock, is due to be reopened following the Covid pandemic after being closed for two years and phone calls are expected to decrease as more people use the authority’s online systems.

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