In the United Kingdom, the New Performance Framework for Local Authority Partnerships has set new indicators for customer contact performance. These indicators include reducing any and all avoidable contacts. Now that these standards are in place, it is important to evaluate how the local authorities are doing today.
There is evidence that commercial call centers are consistently enhancing their services. Such enhancements come in the form of answering calls in mere seconds, responding to e-mails in a few hours. The public sector however, appears to be lagging behind.
Rostrvm completed a benchmarking survey to gain a better understanding of the reality of the everyday processes within the public sector call centers. This survey examined the current and future measurement of ‘success’ in Local Authority call centers.
One positive outcome of the survey was the finding that in many ways local government customer service centers are actually outperforming their commercial counterparts in providing open multimedia access to service with more than 90 percent of surveyed centers offering at least one medium in addition to traditional live telephone agents.
Service level standards are generally in place that set targets for basic activities, including answering inbound telephone calls. However, less than half or 43 percent of survey respondents have a target for returning calls.
What has to be evaluated is what will happen if an inquiry requires a return call and the customer is not given an estimated time of receiving that call? The center in effect takes the risk that this customer will have to contact the call center again to make the same inquiry as he or she did not receive the call back in a reasonable amount of time. As a result, an avoidable contact was made.
Surprisingly, 78 percent of responding authorities operate in conjunction with an associated, interactive Web site, yet only a quarter have a target for responding to Web inquiries. Such a standard or lack thereof, negates the benefit that the Web site was created and launched to provide.
Results of this study also showed that local government call centers are more focused on day-to-day operational issues than establishing consistent service levels. Key challenges for these call centers include meeting the increasing customer demand, managing seasonal overload and training new staff.
While government-based call centers do not have the same profit margin pressures as that of commercial call centers, they are still cost-based centers that can benefit financially from the implementation of customer-centric solutions that improve performance. At the end of the day, such solutions can produce a more satisfied customer and a better work environment.
Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMC and has also written for eastbiz.com. To see more of her articles, please visit Susan J. Campbell’s columnist page.
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