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Council report shows increased use of telephone services and First Stop shops

Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 18:24 GMT on Monday, May 27th, 2013.

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NORTH Lanarkshire Council’s offline services have seen a stiff increase in demand from the authority area’s residents. 

According to a Customer Services Update report, prepared for the Policy and Resources (Finance and Customer Services) Sub-committee, on 8th May, 2013, demand for all council public communication services have written between 2010 and 2013.

The report was proposed for the sub-committee in order to provide an update on the creation of the council’s Customer Services Strategy for 2013 to 2018; the authority’s corporate Customer Care Standards and associated performance measures; the council’s customer service provision through the primary customer contact channels; as well as the ongoing development of key supporting initiatives.

The report adds: “We want to make it easy, convenient and pleasant for our customers to interact and do business with us. This means making it straightforward for our customers to: find us; obtain accurate information from us; contact the right person; get the required services; and provide or receive appropriate feedback and support.”

Reducing the “heavy dependency” on customer services.

Reporting on the authority’s creation of its Customer Services Strategy 2013 – 2018, the report notes that a, “Customer consultation on the new strategy closed on the 26'h April 2013 and details of this consultation are the subject of a separate report to committee. The overall direction of the new strategy is towards greater use of the web and other self service approaches, over time reducing our heavy dependency on the telephone and on face to face contact.” 

The report goes on to list the priorities of the five year strategy, stating it’s about, “Understanding our customers and their needs; Improving the way we deliver services; Encouraging our customers to contact us in ways that best suit their needs; Making sure our employees have the knowledge and skills they need; and Putting things right if they go wrong.”

Telephone remains top form of communication. 

The report adds: “The telephone continues to be the most popular customer channel for requesting a service from the Council. Total incoming calls for the year are 564,445 with a customer call abandonment rate of 1.1%. In addition to incoming calls, the customer contact centre also made 266,603 outbound calls to our customers. These included calls to check on customer appointments and to carry out customer surveys. The Contact Centre also processes 27,310 on line requests for service.” 

“Work has started on the procurement of a new Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) System to support the Customer Contact Centre and to deliver new features which will improve the customer experience. These will include the introduction of multi-media (e.g. the use of eMail and Text Messaging) providing customers with additional contact channels.”

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First Stop Shop success – with four minute average wait for customers. 

The council report adds: “Total customer visits to our first stop Shops for the year was 241,432. Customers had an average wait time of 3 min 56 sec. 

“In the last year there has been a significant focus on staff training and Performance Management within the First Stop Shops. As part of this focus it has become clear that time has to be dedicated to staff training. However in a front line service such as this it is difficult to take staff out of circulation to undertake training without impacting on the service delivered to customers. 

“It is therefore proposed that all First Stop Shops should close on a Wednesday morning from 08:45am till 10:00am to allow staff to undertake the ongoing training required to deliver the wide range of services available. This training includes ongoing updates to staff on operational matters such as changes to housing allocations policy through to regulatory training in areas such as data protection, information security, money laundering etc. 

“If approved, an implementation date of 1"JuIy 2013 is proposed to allow an awareness raising campaign to be undertaken, ensuring customers are fully aware of the change. The positive impact that this change in our approach to training First Stop Shop staff will have should be visible through improved waiting times for customers. “

The report then moves on to look at the blue badge scheme, introduced in January, last year, with two categories (Automatic or Discretionary). The report concludes that there were 6,427 badges processed, with 135 applicants – equivalent to 2.1%, having their application “…referred to Occupational Therapists for a decision.”

A 3 star website for a five star council.

“The Council web site has maintained its 3 star rating in the annual review of local authority web sites 'Better Connected',” the report reads.

“Figures for 2012/13 indicate that there were 2,016,719 visits to the website and that in total 7,466,248 individual pages were viewed. 

“The most popular pages were the Homepage, the search page, Council vacancies, School holiday arrangements, School term dates, Winter schools update, Pay a bill, Our Winter Services, Education and Learning and Jobs at the Council.”

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