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Dragon Interview: Cllr John Redpath on the Problems with GBC’s Customer Service

Published on: 30 Apr, 2022
Updated on: 4 May, 2022

Cllr John Redpath

When your bin has not been collected, your council house needs fixing or there is a problem with your council tax what do you do?

For many of us, our first reaction is to pick up the phone and call the council.

This is what over 400 of us do every day. But when we can’t get through or we can’t speak to the right person quickly it becomes very frustrating and the slow speed of response to such calls has been the main complaint against the council according to councillors who discussed “customer services” at last week’s meeting (Monday, Apr 25) of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

Being cross-examined was the lead councillor responsible, John Redpath (R4GV, Holy Trinity) and The Dragon thought it would be good to get him to explain to Dragon readers what the current problem was and what was being done to put things right.

Martin Giles asks Cllr Redpath:

1. Why has customer service deteriorated at GBC?

2. How does GBC measure customer service satisfaction?

3. Is the online tool “MyGuildford” helping?

4. Why not use volunteers to help answer phones etc?

5. What is happening going forward?

And he also asks why the lead councillor, who also oversees, has changed his mind about the future of Guildford Museum?

Please listen to what Cllr Redpath has to say…

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Responses to Dragon Interview: Cllr John Redpath on the Problems with GBC’s Customer Service

  1. Martin Elliott Reply

    April 30, 2022 at 8:57 pm

    Very boring and as usual seemed to be an agenda written by Cllr Redpath.

    It’s not just a problem of failure to get any phone reply, it’s also the suggested web pages/forms, or emails, or even letters. Sometimes you get an immediate autoreply, but a real reply?

    If you can’t get a reply at all, what is the best way of registering a complaint, even before complaining about getting something done?

    The Customer Service Policy is still dated 2013. If there have been major changes to GBC services, shouldn’t it have been reviewed and revised?

    What is the formal scheme for monitoring Customer Service performance? Shouldn’t that be used first, with formal auditing, before an ad-hoc special layer of monitoring by Cllr Redpath?

    • John Redpath Reply

      May 1, 2022 at 10:00 pm

      I’m always interested in seeing Martin Elliott’s comments in The Dragon. They are often both fair and balanced, so I thank him for that.

      I’ll leave it to Martin Giles to say whether I wrote the agenda for the interview – if only!

      With regard to measuring customer satisfaction, I stated in the interview that if all calls were being answered in 20 seconds or less and 75 per cent of residents are using the website with ease then I would say we have achieved our goal.

      The system is far from 2013 state, as you say. Every statistic is monitored and I’m given feedback at the end of each week. Improvements are being made daily and, during May, we will be carrying out testing of the online service with members of the public at Guildford Library.

      Customer Service continues to be a work in progress but please be assured no one is resting on their laurels and we all know that there is work still to be done.

      John Redpath is the R4GV lead councillor for Customer Service at GBC.

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    May 1, 2022 at 10:18 am

    Time answering phone calls is not representative of ‘reality’. From a customer’s point of view, time taken to answer the phone is from the moment it starts ringing until the operator picks up. Not from when the “last choice” button is pressed five minutes after the auto-answer system kicks in.

  3. David Halliwell Reply

    May 1, 2022 at 11:03 am

    When the council requires you to phone them to pay for a service their inability to answer the phone is just not acceptable. In this day and age not being able to take payments online is unbelievable, particularly when they can for certain services, just not all of them.

    I have been trying to pay for a charity lottery licence renewal and, having failed to get through on the phone (credit card over the phone is the only payment option offered), I sent them a cheque. Unsurprisingly they were quick enough to contact me via e-mail to refuse to take that form of payment.

    As far as I am concerned, the licence has been paid; if they refuse to accept a legal means of payment then that is the council’s concern.

    • John Redpath Reply

      May 1, 2022 at 9:31 pm

      I would like to thank Mr Halliwell for this useful feedback.

      I see on the form that one is told to telephone the 505050 number which I will admit doesn’t seem right.

      I will investigate and see what can be done to fix this.

      John Redpath is the R4GV lead councillor for Customer Service at GBC.

    • Keith Reeves Reply

      May 3, 2022 at 12:11 pm

      Unfortunately, David Halliwell is incorrect. A creditor is entitled to be paid in legal tender and can refuse payment in any other form. Cheques are not legal tender and never have been.

  4. Daniel Hill Reply

    May 1, 2022 at 11:48 am

    I’m shocked. At no point did Cllr Redpath mention the best way to reduce calls and complaints was for GBC to provide better services to residents. It feels like R4GV has given up on trying to make things better.

    Instead, Cllr Redpath seemed happy to explain that he saves the council money by wasting residents’ time with long recorded messages and lots of options before you can actually be put through. If you are lucky enough to get through don’t expect any answers. Unfortunately, all the experts have been made redundant.

    We can look forward to a future of GBC making all employees redundant and trying to communicate with AI Bots.

    R4GV, what a mess. We need councillors who fix the issues at GBC not just kick the can down the road.

    • John Redpath Reply

      May 1, 2022 at 9:38 pm

      Daniel Hill, has clearly missed the point. As is clear from the interview, there is no “can-kicking”, only improvements going forward by the council’s fantastic and dedicated GBC Customer Services team.

      John Redpath is the R4GV lead councillor for Customer Service at GBC.

      • Daniel Hill Reply

        May 3, 2022 at 4:26 pm

        Maybe Cllr Redpath has “missed the point”

        I don’t have the same data as Cllr Redpath to base my opinion on. Instead, I get my information from speaking to local residents and reading stories in the media. And what I hear and see isn’t good.

        Every time I click on The Dragon I read about GBC services falling apart under R4GV leadership. It would appear we have issues with planning, bin collection, closing public toilets, the list goes on.

        But if Cllr Redpath is suggesting the information I’ve been reading is wrong. Maybe he would be so kind to list which services have improved under R4GV leadership?

  5. C Perkins Reply

    May 3, 2022 at 1:46 pm

    Dear Guildford Dragon, Please find alternative positive-programmed Bots to respond to your articles these ones only ever complain about anything and everything.

  6. Valerie Thompson Reply

    May 3, 2022 at 4:40 pm

    I can’t believe that John Redpath calls his team “fantastic and dedicated”.

    At times over the last year or so, I have spent over 30 minutes waiting for a reply before giving up. Surely it is not beyond reason to expect the council to have at least one receptionist answering the phone during working hours, say 9 to 5. Even if they cannot immediately put you through to the right department at the very least they can tell you when someone might be there and able to take a call.

    In the past, every department had someone available to listen and, if the best person were not there to respond, take down a request for dealing with later.

    I wonder how many GBC staff are still working from home when the rest of us are getting on with life. Or has GBC sacked so many they are not able to function properly?

  7. Brian Holt Reply

    May 6, 2022 at 1:58 pm

    There has still been no change to the customer service phone line. It takes over 30 minutes to get through, if you are lucky, as now everyone uses the same one phone number. Surely the council must know this is causing problems.

    What if there’s an emergency like a collapsed ceiling or water coming from the flat above? How are tenants meant to report such things if they are put on hold constantly? Then there is the cost to the tenant left on hold from up to 30 minutes plus. For people like single mums and the elderly, this is money they need and cannot afford to lose on long phone calls to the council.

    What is the point of phoning customer service, listening to all the choices when they have not even included repairs, one of the main services required. Then there is the long wait listening to music until, if you are lucky, someone will answer and speak to you and connect to the department you want.

    Why can’t Cllr Redpath see this is all unnecessary? Can’t we phone the department needed direct ourselves?

    I cannot see the difference between customer services or callers phoning the department, except it saves us time and money and could actually speak to a human being who would have the knowledge to help you.

    This would free up the customer service phone line. Cllr Redman should know that is how it used to be and there was nothing wrong with that system. The new administration has had over two years to sort this out.

    I am surprised to hear that only one councillor has contacted Cllr Redpath. Surely there are more examples than just one?

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