Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s customer service call centre suffered from staffing issues and IT technical problems as up to half of all calls were abandoned on some days in the early part of this year, a council report has found.
During February and March, thousands of callers were left with poor customer service as the call centre was hit by a series of problems, coupled with peak demand for services.
A council report found “systemic failures” in the council’s phone system and a staffing crisis during an “extremely challenging” time for the centre.
In early February, the council migrated its local centre front desk services over to customer access; the report found that in mid-March the telephone system failed due to a failed implementation of an instant messaging service affecting over 1,000 callers.
The report found that overall its was unable to identify an exact number of customers affected, “but it is likely to have had a significant impact on the abandonment rate and repeat demand.”
A city council spokesperson said: “Our customer access department was affected by a host of problems, often simultaneously, which really challenged our ability to respond to demand from callers at times.
“To make it easier and quicker for people to contact the council and get the information they need, we are currently improving our website to expand the range of online services available and make them easier to access.
“Our ‘Click and Easy’ programme will make it easier to report issues, apply for services, find information and pay bills without picking up the phone, and will enable our staff to respond more quickly to people who really need to call us about more complex or pressing enquiries.”
The council has budgeted a digital overhaul of its customer services for 2015/16, which includes redesigning its website to encourage the uptake of digital services.