‘Win-win situation’ if council rings changes

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A NEW state-of-the-art phone system should be a “win-win” situation for residents trying to find out more about council services.

If the system goes live later this year callers would be greeted by a recorded message giving them six options to choose from, such as housing, benefits or planning, and they would then be routed to the right person to help them with their enquiry.

It is hoped it will cut down on calls lost because people get fed up waiting for the phone to be answered, or get through to an answering machine.

South Holland District Council cabinet is due to make a decision on whether or not to implement the system in September, but a joint meeting of the Perfomance Monitoring Panel and Policy Development Panel next Tuesday will be presented with a report allaying many of the fears previously highlighted by councillors.

One concern was that the system would pave the way for a call centre elsewhere in the country or even abroad and another was that callers to the council would have to speak to a machine if voice recognition software was introduced.

Councillors also wanted the number of options kept to a minimum.

The report makes assurances that all customer services jobs will continue to be filled locally and that push-button menus will be kept short, while people will also be able to speak to a customer adviser if they wish and can still direct dial if they know the extension number of the person they wish to speak to.

The new system is already operating at East Lindsey District Council, which last year set up a joint venture company with South Holland called Compass Point Business Services (CPBS) to deliver back-office services, such as human resources, finance and customer services.

CPBS is already delivering a £2.1m saving from the combined 2011/12 revenue budgets of both councils and through staff cuts made possible by new systems such as the automated phones, it is expected that the councils can save in excess of £300,000 a year.

Coun Paul Przyszlak said: “I certainly hope it will be a win- win situation as it will save the council money but provide an even better service for the people of South Holland.

“Effectively it will mean that at the push of a button you get through to someone who knows what they are talking about and can help you with your query.”