Council wants to cut customer service budget

NEARLY �40,000 could be slashed from a council’s customer service department, which is already failing to meet some of its targets.

But North Herts District Council (NHDC), which is proposing the move, has defended the proposals claiming it is “over exceeding customer expectations” anyway.

Cabinet members will decide whether to proceed with cutting �38,000 from its customer service centre on Tuesday.

It wants to amend its target of the time it takes to answer calls, from 80 per cent answered in 20 seconds to 80 per cent answered in 45 seconds.

Currently, it does not meet its target, with the number of calls answered at all also having dropped over the years.

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A report prepared for the meeting said the reason those targets have not been achieved is because of staffing issues.

“The current standards are over exceeding customer expectations and therefore the cost of striving to achieving this target could be significantly reduced by changing them,” it read.

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“The reduction in telephone answering performance has not had a reported negative impact on customer satisfaction or generated an increase in complaints, suggesting that customers calling into the CSC are prepared to wait longer for their call to be answered.”

It adds: “This reflects customer’s experience of using commercial and other public sector call centres where typical response times are significantly longer.”

Savings would be achieved by not filling in vacant posts, with the scheme, if approved, due to be reviewed in 12 months.

Cllr Bernard Lovewell, NHDC’s portfolio holder for housing and environmental Health, said: “Cabinet is being asked to consider a proposal that aims to make further improvements to the high level of customer service we provide while making efficiencies, at a time when the council is required to make substantial savings for the financial year 2013/14 and subsequent years.

“The proposals focus on improving the way we deal with customer’s queries, which feedback suggests is more important than the speed of the response. In conjunction with a number of other planned initiatives, they would not have any adverse impact on our existing customer service staff.”

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