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Lead Councillor is ‘Aware of Frustration’ Over Telephone Response Service

Published on: 22 Dec, 2021
Updated on: 22 Dec, 2021

The lead councillor at GBC who has recently taken on responsibility for customer services has responded to complaints made by Dragon readers about poor responses to telephone enquiries.

Cllr John Redpath (R4GV, Holy Trinity) said there has been a coincidence of an “unprecedented number of calls” at the same time as staff shortages, partly due to the pandemic, but that things are improving and more staff will be deployed in the new year.

Cllr John Redpath

In a statement, Cllr Redpath said: “I am very aware of the frustration felt by our residents and understand that we have struggled to maintain our previous track record for answering their queries quickly.

“Customer Services and Web Services were added to my portfolio a few weeks ago and I had my first meeting with the senior officers leading those teams on Monday (December 20). I now have a clearer picture of the challenges that are faced.

“Over the last 18 months we have experienced a backlog of enquiries and requests in some of our services. Some of this was created by the Coronavirus (Covid 19) pandemic, and some from redeployment where we created new extra support services for residents who needed it.

See also: Hopefully A New Lead Councillor Will Bring Service Improvements

“In addition, like most organisations, we have had to operate at times with fewer members of staff as some became ill with the virus or were self-isolating following government guidance.

“ ‘Future Guildford’, our transformation programme to make the organisation more customer-focussed, modern and save costs, also had an effect as staff got to grips with new processes and IT software.

“We can now track how we respond to residents and business queries and monitor our performance overall, including our call centre. But to confirm, we are still receiving an unprecedented number of calls, around 850 calls a day and our staff are sometimes spending 40 to 45 minutes on more complex enquiries. Of course, many calls only last a few minutes.

“We have invested heavily in the MyGuildford area on our website as well as refreshing and simplifying the website itself.  This is because we want this to be the first place residents and businesses go to contact the council or find information.

“An incredible 17,500 people have already signed up for a MyGuildford account. The MyGuildford area is open 24/7/365 and gives residents access to a range of services. In MyGuildford residents can report issues such as missed bins, upload photos to help with their query, manage their Council Tax account and track and monitor the progress of their enquiry. For those that can’t go online then customer services are still contactable by phone.

The first page of MyGuildford section of the GBC website

“I can reassure residents and businesses that we are working hard to improve all our services across the council as well as at our call centre.

“Our response time to calls is improving weekly with over half the calls we receive being answered within 20 seconds. We know that wait times on some lines are longer than others and to help us address this from January we will benefit from having more staff available to answer calls.”

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Responses to Lead Councillor is ‘Aware of Frustration’ Over Telephone Response Service

  1. Martin Elliott Reply

    December 27, 2021 at 3:56 pm

    Yet again Cllr John Redpath simplifies the issue to Customer Services reactions to phone calls.

    He then goes on to MyGuildford, as a prefered communication media which from my experience is just a portal for the existing GBC Website. It doesn’t even transfer its registration to GBC Website forms. You have to remember to copy any information as a download of complete submission isn’t offered.

    So what are we promised? More staff (after 14 per cent cuts) will reduce response times. Cllr Redpath will monitor.

    In my engineering audit experience, you can’t be sure of improvements unless they’re measured. So the important measure is what percentage of calls are answered in 20 sec (it use to be four rings). When will it ever be 100 per cent?

    What is the response time going to be for emails or letters? Some of us want a confirmed record of communications. Will the 10-day response of two years ago return, though it is still in the email auto-response.

    What’s the timescale to achieve that or any interim target?

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