Council callers remain on hold as staff pressure builds

Graham Leadbitter – expressed reservations.

Moray councillors learned on Tuesday that a cultural change is required if the public are to see any improvement in Moray Council’s call centre operation.

A meeting at the local authority discussed problems that emanated from a record increase in calls in the period from April to June, with over 18,000 people calling in compared to just over 12,000 for the corresponding period in 2012.

That increase resulted in only 50% of calls received being answered in the 20 seconds timespan expected of call centre staff.

Council chiefs say that the increase was down to changes to the benefits system being introduced at the same time as Moray Council introduced their own change to collection arrangements for recycled waste.

Convener of Moray Council, Stewart Cree, said that these additional demands on the call centre created a ‘perfect storm’ that resulted in performance suffering.  Now he insisted that a cultural change was required so that any potential rise in demand would be flagged up to staff well in advance.

The report, to the council’s policy and resources committee, said: “Quite apart from the poor customer experience which these figures reflect, it is highly unlikely that the performance can improve significantly during the next quarter to bring average levels close to the targets set.”

Councillor Cree said that in future employees from other offices should be drafted in to assist, adding: “That way when we do get hit by these tidal waves we can respond.”

SNP Councillor, Graham Leadbitter, reminded the administration that he had previously made clear his own reservations when the call centre operation was restructured two years ago.  He said: “I had reservations about what was being proposed because it did not seem to me that there was enough frontline staff.  I think that what I predicted has transpired.”

His SNP opposition colleague, Councillor Patsy Gowans, added: “I think short-term contracts are a false economy and are providing instability to the hotline and many other council services.

“People will only stay with the council until they can find something better elsewhere – what we are getting is a process of advertise, recruit, train – then exit.”

Head of the Council’s legal and democratic services, Rhona Gunn, said that there was a need for heads of services to communicate more actively with the contact centre as the services will be first to become aware of potential inquiries.  She added: “They need to operate in a more energetic rather than reactive way, a cultural change is required.”