Falkirk Council: One in four calls to contact centre go unanswered

Nearly one in four calls made to Falkirk Council’s contact centre – which deals with everything from missed bins to housing repairs – have been going unanswered.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Friday, 28th January 2022, 9:55 am

Concerns that customers are having to wait so long to get through they are just giving up were raised at Falkirk Council’s scrutiny committee.

Councillors from all parties had asked for a report because of the volume of complaints they get about the service.

The report showed that between July and December 2020, it had taken an average of nearly eight minutes for a call to be answered.

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Falkirk Council

In those months, with an average of 28,427 calls being received every month, just 16,583 were answered – a total of 58.54 per cent.

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Last year, the council recruited two new members of staff and the time taken reduced to just over four minutes, on average.

Again between July and December, the number of calls made was 23,512 and 17,871 were answered, a total of 76.4 per cent.

Lorna Binnie

Councillors heard as well as the increase in staffing, an automated payment line had been introduced which means customers can make payments by telephone without waiting to speak to a call handler.

But members were keen to hear that more would still be done to reduce the waiting time and stop residents hanging up in frustration at the delays.

Falkirk South councillor Lorna Binnie said: “When I’m out and about in my communities, unfortunately nearly everybody I speak to says they have an issue trying to get through to Falkirk Council.

“I’m really pleased to see these improvements but what I would say is that one in four calls are still not getting answered.

“That makes me wonder if we have enough call handlers, knowing what I’m hearing from my community.”

Cllr Binnie was told that “between 9 and 9.45 am, even if we put on 200 call handlers we wouldn’t be able to answer all the calls”.

But they are looking at ways to tackle the busy periods and a pilot using social work staff has been successful in cutting the length of time it takes to get an answer.

From October to November, calls were also sent to the local office support staff – adding 15 trained call handlers for the busy mornings.

That saw a reduction in abandoned calls of over 40 per cent, and the council will now look at other areas where this could work.

The service manager has also pledged to look at the performance of individual agents to find out how much time they are spending on calls and help reduce any “downtime”.

Members also heard that a significant number of calls are “interactions” – made by residents calling to check on progress after requesting a service.

A new digital project aims to find better ways to give customers update and help them monitor progress for themselves.

Upper Braes councillor John McLuckie said he did not think things had improved enough as the figures showed fewer people calling.

“The reality is that a lot of those people are maybe not phoning back because they can’t get through,” he said.

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