Waiting times for people calling Stevenage Borough Council are improving, a councillor has said.

The issue was raised by Cllr Margaret Notley, who said at a full council meeting on Wednesday, January 24 that she had "received many complaints from residents saying it took a considerable amount of time to get through to someone to actually talk to".

Cllr Notley asked whether Cllr Loraine Rossati, executive member for culture, leisure and information technology, was satisfied that residents find it "convenient" to contact the council by phone.

Ahead of the meeting, Cllr Rossati provided a written response which said that the council has seen its customer service telephone waiting times "improve throughout the year" and that performance has been "strong".

She pointed to council data showing that the average telephone waiting time for residents dropped from six minutes and 58 seconds in the first quarter of 2023, to two minutes and 15 seconds in the third quarter.

The council's data also showed that the percentage of calls that were abandoned fell from 27.5 per cent to 12 per cent across the same period.

Cllr Rossati attributed the improved data to "a range of actions including a new 'knowledgebase' of documentation and training for staff, call quality monitoring, and improvements in the repairs service".


She added that the council wants to "encourage and enable residents to resolve queries themselves where possible, so that we can prioritise telephone support to those who need it most".

Towards the end of last year, the council began a pilot scheme for the revenues and benefits, and environmental services departments.

Cllr Rossati said: "This pilot service offers to text residents a link for the relevant online self-service for transactional enquiries, but still enables them to speak to a member of staff if they would like to.

"We have seen a strong take up for this service thus far of 42 per cent (revenues and benefits) and 72 per cent (environmental services) with no complaints received either."

At the council meeting, Cllr Notley recognised the "positive trend" shown in the data, but asked Cllr Rossati to "remind the team to be mindful of the residents whose experience has not been so good", and challenge them "to double down and get those waiting times down even further".

Cllr Rossati said that the council is "always looking to improve the service", and that she wants to "monitor" the pilot scheme "to see whether that is having a positive customer experience".

She added that she is "always, always willing to hear about the good and the less good customer experiences".