Agenda item

Annual Assurance Report on Customer Contact

To consider the report of the Director of Resources which provides assurance over the control environment in place for customer contact and customer satisfaction in the areas of face to face services; Contact Centre and digital services for customers; and compliments and complaints.


The Director of Resources submitted a report providing the Committee with assurance over the control environment in place for customer contact and customer satisfaction. The report covered the following areas:

·  Face to face services

·  Contact centre and digital services for customers

·  Compliments and complaints


The terms of reference of the Corporate Governance and Audit Committee require the Committee to consider the adequacy of the Council’s policies and practices to ensure compliance with statutory guidance and the adequacy of the Council’s corporate governance arrangements.


The Head of Shared Services presented the report and highlighted the extent to which the standards, policies and procedures in relation to customer contact and satisfaction have been complied with during the reporting period from January 2021 to December 2021. Information was also provided for the period from January 2020 to December 2020 for the purposes of comparison.


The Head of Shared Services provided detail in respect of the following areas:

Face to Face Contact - This includes the services that the Communities Housing and Environment directorate provide such as the Community Hubs, Libraries, Jobshops and Customer Services. During 2021, new community hub developments have been completed, there has been a review of community hub and library opening hours and some community hub sites have been used as vaccination venues during the year.


Contact Centre – This remained very often the first point of contact for service users. 1.4 m calls and 250,000 emails had been handled during 2020/21. It was noted that the average time waiting for calls to be answered had lengthened and work was being done to address this, looking at digital contact options and staff recruitment to improve responsiveness and the Committee was assured that work was being done with the Digital Inclusion Service to assist customers who need non-digital options for contact.


Satisfaction – A new survey was launched for the Contact Centre in January 2022 and the results for the month of January 2022 were provided as an indication of current satisfaction levels, acknowledging this was outside the period of assurance detailed in the report. Complaint volumes increased in 2021 compared to 2020, by around a quarter at both stage 1 and stage 2.


The following matters were considered during discussion:


Telephone contact – Several issues were raised by Members, including:

-  One Member identified this as an area of weakness, citing those customers who could only telephone the contact centre during work breaks/lunchtime and as waiting times for calls to be answered had increased, some callers may not be able to wait.

-  One Member queried whether the Contact Centre hours could be extended. 


The Committee heard that a robust improvement plan was in place to understand the root cause of contact and to recruit to vacancies in the Contact Centre. Work was being done across Services to promote a “Get it Right first time” approach to reduce the need for calls and follow up calls. Although there were no plans to extend the Contact Centre hours, a review of the rotas/call contact peak times to ensure there was sufficient cover was being done.


-  Figures from pre-pandemic were requested for comparison purposes

-  Insight on the reasons for staff leaving the Contact Centre was requested.

-  How the complexity of calls was assessed

-  Why one third of callers were making repeat calls to the Contact Centre


The Committee heard that information gleaned from exit interviews showed a key reason for staff leaving was their promotion within the Council as Contact Centre staff are well trained and have an understanding of many LCC services therefore have transferrable and desirable skills for the rest of the authority. Development of career pathways across Shared Services was being considered in order to retain staff, but it was also reported that receiving abuse from callers was another factor.


In terms of the complexity of call responses increasing, average handling times showed that generally calls were taking longer to resolve, this was attributed to backlogs in service provision/catch up from Covid-19 and re-scheduling issues.


In respect of repeat calls, work was ongoing to address this issue and it was acknowledged that some customers abandon first attempt calls and make a repeat call at other times.


Digital inclusion – In response to a query, the Head of Shared Services confirmed that some lines do carry a script for call handlers to ask callers if they are aware of digital contact options. Some lines also have an IVR on the call waiting message to direct callers to the digital options.


Additionally, responding to comments regarding the accessibility of the LCC website and on-line reporting format, the Head of Shared Services confirmed that there were approximately 60 different on-line reporting forms on the website, but that these were progressed to the relevant service for action. Bins/replacement bins make up 48% of web form contact, the reporting forms have been simplified and relaunched this year and there were indications that the redesign work has had a positive impact, as there had been fewer complaints.


Data Poverty – One Member highlighted that some customers without internet access at home use their mobile phones to access the LCC website to report on-line and advocated the development of an App which would use less mobile data and be more user-friendly. The Head of Shared Services welcomed the suggestion and agreed this would be further discussed with IDS.


Complaints responded to within target – It was acknowledged that responses within target were lower during 2021 and had been impacted by the pandemic. One Member requested the monthly reporting figures be provided to the Committee in order for Members to assess the success of the improvement plans developed to support service recovery.


Organisation of Communications – One Member cited an example where operatives installing heat pumps were providing a helpline number to tenants which was not resourced and unintentionally providing mis-information on “Green Doctor” work and advocated better organisation and resource for communications. Details of this issue to be provided to the Head of Shared Services for investigation.


Libraries data – Clarity was provided to the statistics in Table 5 revealing that although less library visits were recorded, more books were borrowed during the reporting period due to Libraries operating a “click and collect” service.



a)  To note the assurances provided that

·  the appropriate systems and procedures are in place in respect of the Council’s control environment for customer contact and satisfaction; and

·  there are robust plans in place for improving the customer experience.


b)  To note the intention for Committee Members to be provided with the requested information as detailed above.


Supporting documents: