Agenda item

WHAT OUR CUSTOMERS ARE TELLING US / CUSTOMER SERVICES STRATEGY

To receive a presentation on Customer Services Satisfaction.

Minutes:

The Customer Services Manager, Susan Lewis gave a presentation on the Customer Service Strategy Q3. She advised the Select Committee that the report provided an update on the Quarter 3 satisfaction performance and feedback on ‘what our customers were telling us’.

 

Current Performance

 

Customer Satisfaction

 

Customers were asked to do a short customer satisfaction survey, the measure was based on the Gov Metric customer satisfaction survey, this was for phone calls, emails, letters and the website. There were no details for Q1 as the measure was changed from annually to quarterly. Q2 showed a 75% satisfaction rate which had increased in Q3 to 83%.

 

Number of Calls Received

 

The total number of calls received for Q1 – 31,167, Q2 – 31,674 and Q3 – 26,216.

Q3 was slightly down due to the closure at Christmas of the Council.

 

First Point Resolution

 

The first point resolution was the percentage of calls which the Contact Centre agents could resolve at that first point of contact, so that the customer was not then passed on to another officer at the Council. The Councils’ target was 45% although presently we were underachieving this percentage, each quarter we could see an increase, Q1 – 37.31%, Q2 – 34.71% and Q3 – 40.17%. When this was broken down to monthly statistics, October 35.22%, November 41.15% and December 44.13% you could see month by month the percentages where increasing and in December were almost at the 45% target.

 

We have seen the transition of planning and parking coming over to the Contact Centre and the Contact Centre staff were being trained and have the knowledge to resolve the customer planning calls, unless they are technical. As more services transfer over to us that number will increase.

 

Call Causation Codes

 

We want to get better at understanding the reasons why our customers are calling us, in November 2019 call causation codes were implemented enabling us to identify why customers were calling, out of 16,861 calls received in November and December a causation code was only recorded for 5,000 calls. Officers have to manually enter that code and we have been carrying out some analysis as to why causation codes were not being recorded. We have been experiencing some system issues whereby a new phone system was installed and there were teething problems and there was also a high level of absence in the Contact Centre at the moment. We intend on doing better in the next quarter.

 

Why are Customers calling the Council

 

The service areas that received the highest number of calls in Q3 were:

 

Housing

 

A total of 1395 calls (not yet transitioned to the contact centre)

Housing Repairs 686 calls – transferred for an appointment

Housing Management 449 calls – transferred to the team.

 

Planning

 

A total of 934 calls (transitioned to contact centre)

Application enquiries 400 calls dealt with the contact centre; the rest were technical.

 

Waste

 

A total of 1030 calls (transitioned to contact centre)

Bin delivery requests equate for the highest volume of calls equating to 336, however all Waste calls were dealt with by contact centre – forms are now online so we are channel shifting customers to the website.

 

Compliments and Complaints Received

 

There was a spike in Q2 for compliments as The Community Health and Wellbeing Team held an external event which resulted in a higher number of compliments.

 

The complaints received in Q3 so far equate to 71 in comparison to 59 in Q2. There seemed to be no apparent reason why the complaints had increased for Q3.

 

The complaints that were received have been broken down into service areas as below:

 

Housing                       18

Planning                      14

Not Complaint             13

Council Tax                 18

Waste                          18

Benefits                       13

Environmental Health 12

Car Parking                 12

Building Control          12

Drainage                     11

 

Of those complaints a majority of them were not upheld and we were looking at ways of training on how to manage customer expectations so that our agents can resolve more of the complaints.

 

What are Customers telling us

 

Planning

 

The Councils customers are unhappy that although they can see a Duty Planner - for which very positive feedback has been received – they are unhappy that they cannot see their allocated Planner without an appointment – the Planning team are on the case and re-designing the service.

 

Customers paying by cheque

 

Customers were still paying by cheque, mainly due to an issue of habit and trust. We were promoting all available payment methods through as many communication channels as possible, staff are continuing to talk to customers and educating them to encourage channel shift.

 

Call secure

 

Callsecure was a method whereby the customer calls us to make a payment, the call operator will transfer the customer to a system which would take the payment for them.

Customers have fed back issues with the performance of Callsecure impacting usage and customer experience. The Councils Payment Team were reviewing and working on the improvements required to streamline this system.

 

Waste Collections

 

The Councils customers are unhappy that side waste was not being collected, additional rubbish left on top of or to the side of the waste bin.  The Councils contract doesn’t include collection of this side waste for budgetary reasons, each ‘lift’ costs £1.30.

 

Special collections for example, furniture, the Operatives cannot enter the customers house to collect items for Health & Safety and Insurance reasons. This causes issues with customers if they are elderly or disabled and they cannot lift and carry their items outside which results in complaints.

 

There were also complaints telling us that Biffa had not delivered bins, there were 28 reported in December 2019 and 42 reported in January 2020. The statistics show this to be the same trend as last year. This feedback has been fed to the Waste Management Partnership Board who were looking at solutions.

 

Essex County Council Issues

 

Customers were complaining to EFDC about issues which concerned Essex County Council for example street lighting and potholes. They contact EFDC and when they were told that it was the responsibility of Essex County Council, they then want us to complain on their behalf.

 

The meeting was then opened up to questions from members.

 

Councillor I Hadley asked how many abandoned calls did the Council receive. The Customer Services Manager replied that normally it was around 3%, but at the moment that figure was higher due to staffing problems and a new telephone system that the Council have installed. Looking at the past week it has been 6-7% therefore it was higher than we would like it to be and we are looking to resolve these issues.

 

Councillor J H Whitehouse stated that in the past with regard to the special collections of furniture there used to be an arrangement where people phoned in and they had reusable furniture their call would be redirected to Epping Forest Reuse, this might have been under the previous contract, but I don’t believe that this happening now. The Reuse team have a large van for collections and they would go into the residents house to remove the items, I could see this being a help for the elderly and disabled residents. Could this therefore be reinstated. The Service Manager said she would look into if and why this arrangement has stopped.

 

Councillor J McIvor stated that ultimately people who phone into the Council want to have a good positive experience whereby you are not rushed off the phone. My experience with phoning into the Council was that the operator tried to get you off of the phone as quick as possible. I spoke to three different operators on separate occasions who each gave conflicting information, He stated that there doesn’t seem to be any consistency and he asked how often was the data analysed. The Service Manager advised that they did review the data weekly and added that she was very passionate about the customer experience but there was presently an issue with high levels of staff absences for a variety of reasons and the call centre staff were very stressed as they were trying to answer as many calls as they could.

 

Councillor I Hadley asked if the call centre staff level were determined by budget or demand. The Customer Services Manager advised that there was a budget, however if the call centre had the staff that they should have on headcount the department would function correctly. At the moment we have many of the call centre staff off due to a wide variety of reasons. This was not something we could have pre-empted or avoided and as our call centre staff deal with many departments across the Council they have a wide variety of knowledge so its not easy for anyone else to step in to answer the calls.

 

The Service Director added that as the contact centre had grown we are analysing weekly and we have based staffing on the operating model of the Council. When the demand increases the Council will manage the demand and employ more customer services staff.

 

Councillor D Wixley asked what was the full compliment of staff in the customer services call centre. The Services Manager advised that there were usually 15 call centre staff but today there are 5 and 2 of those have to man the reception desk.

 

Customer Strategy Update

 

The Customer Services Manager advised that they were fixing the basics, creating a strong internal platform, addressing key customer complaints for both external and internal customers.

 

Phase One

 

·        The launch of a new telephone/service area guide to which would be published in the Members’ Bulletin

·        Piloting our internal customer service health check which will provide a baseline on customer service standards and will challenge ourselves to deliver customer excellence

·        New improved customer payments where the web pages are enhanced and there will be new customer kiosks for an improved customer experience

·        A streamlined customer complaints process

·        Unacceptable customer behaviour policy being launched in April 2020

·        District Lines and all staff communication to support launch

·        Members’ bulletin communication

·        Customer Champions working group engaging teams and gaining feedback on health check.

 

What’s Next

 

Strategy launch

·        External customer strategy creative and sign off

·        Customer promise to be finalised and launched

 

Customer satisfaction and reporting

·        Benchmark survey conducted by Institute of Customer Service

·        New reporting and customer satisfaction measurement to be developed

 

One single contact centre

·        Community, Health & Wellbeing, Revenue & Benefits and Housing customer contact to transition over

 

Embracing a customer culture

·        Staff awareness campaigns & Service Superstar initiative

 

Councillor Portal Development on Firmstep

·        Councillors can access everything in one place (working group to be set up) plus bring your own device training.

 

Customer experience enhancement

·        Tell us once if moving in/out of district or reporting a death

·        My Council enter a postcode to access information on home or area

·        Assisted and missed collections processes enhanced and simplified

·        New reporting and customer satisfaction measurement to be developed

 

Customer experience enhancement

·        Progression towards completion of the three micro sites Museum, Airfield and Countrycare

·        Digital solutions company selected to host and maintain our websites

·        Test website being created after which the four buttons (Pay, Apply, Report, Book) can be developed

·        Also supports integration and launch of microsites and our accessibility audit.

 

The Customer Services Manager advised that this was just a brief overview of the work that was ongoing further work was going on around the customer experience enhancement that the Council will be progressing.

 

The Chairman thanked the officers for their presentation and for attending the Select Committee.

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