Councillor: ‘I cooked my dinner while on hold to council call centre’
A borough councillor said she "cooked her dinner" while she was on hold to the local authority’s contact centre.
Waiting times have been reduced since last year, officers said, for those calling the council with enquiries such as housing, bill and public health issues.
Other news: Wigan pensioner tied up, beaten and robbed in his own homeBut Coun Anita Thorpe, who represents Leigh East ward in the chamber, said her experience showed there was still room for improvement, highlighting those calling from pay as you go phones cannot afford to be kept waiting for too long.
“When I’ve had complaints about housing and I’ve rung the switchboard (on behalf of constituents) and asked to be put through, they’ve said I’m number 14 in the queue,” she told colleagues at a town hall scrutiny meeting.
“I’ve cooked my dinner, I’ve actually cooked my dinner – with it on loud speaker so I can hear when someone has answered.
“I’ve cooked the lot before somebody has answered, and I’ve thought those on pay as you go will have been knocked off long since. That is a problem.”
Customer service manager Peter Hughes and contact centre manager Joanne Rooney had earlier received praise from the committee for improvements made last year.
Although the contact centre had taken on extra responsibilities, the number of enquiries had fallen by almost 50k to 396k compared with the previous year, they told the confident council committee.
A drive to handle more enquiries online is partly responsible, they added, along with support being provided at borough life centres and libraries.
Average call waiting times have reduced by two minutes and six seconds, the committee was also told.
Responding directly to Leigh East representative Coun Thorpe, Mr Hughes said he acknowledged the issue for those using pay as you go phones.
“We do offer a free phone at the life centres to go through to the contact centre but I appreciate they then have to go to the life centre to make that call,” he said.
“And I appreciate it is sometimes busy on the housing line but we have a Q-Buster system (through which residents can request a call back when they reach the front of the queue) available when it’s particularly busy.”
Ms Rooney said several new members of staff had recently been recruited to bolster numbers on the busy housing line, which accounts for 36 per cent of received calls, and waiting times for that service are reducing.
The contact centre handles enquiries for 22 council services and is now open for extended hours through the week.
The officers’ report said: “Ongoing feedback and improvement programmes will continue to take place across all services areas with regular refreshers for advisers and opportunities for all parties to provide feedback.
“We are working hard to improve and maintain customer satisfaction in line with increasing customer expectations.”