An Aberdeenshire councillor has called for the speedy introduction of a scheduled new phone system to tackle the volume of unanswered queries to the local authority.
East Garioch Lib-Dem Fergus Hood made the appeal after it was revealed that out of 24,324 calls made to Aberdeenshire Council’s Contact Centre in October last year, some 10,000 went unanswered.
While he accepted that the handling of 14,000 queries with an average waiting time of between four and six minutes was good, he stressed it was not good enough.
For the period April to October, 63,899 calls from 161,189 made went unanswered – representing a 39% fail rate.
The details emerged at a meeting of the council’s Business Services committee which agreed to the development of a scrutiny programme over the coming year which will begin with a review of its Customer Services network.
Informal workshops will aim to be inclusive in relation to involving both internal and external stakeholders who can contribute to the various areas and services in question.
During duscussions, Cllr Hood said: “In terms of the Contact Centre they do an excellent job, however they could be better supported by the upgrade in the telephone system in relation to the number of unanswered calls.”
He said anything the council can do as part of the planned upgrade system to reduce the number of unaswered calls would be “very much welcomed by residents”.
And he added: “Whilst I acknowledge that the average wait time is four to six minutes, that relates to the calls that were answered.
“However there’s another issue here about the calls that are not answered and that’s the plea I am making when the phone system is upgraded we should be answering more calls either automicatically or by some other means.”
Councillors agreed that the Contact Centre needed to be fit for purpose to provide the best possible service to clients.
Ellon councillor Isobel Davidson said: “We need to make sure the centre is well staffed and funded because there is nothing more frustrating than having been kept waiting on the phone for a long time and then giving up without an answer.”
Meanwhile, the committee heard that the council is predicting an increase of around 1,000 customers this year visiting Service Points across the Shire.
Service Points currently operate in six offices at Peterhead, Banff, Turriff, Ellon, Huntly and Inverurie.
From 75,777 customers using the facilities in 2015, that number has risen to 112,590 between January and October last year.
Commenting on the service, Councillor Norman Smith, chair of the Buchan Area Committee, said: “We’ve had a Service Point at Buchan House since it was set up and I was sceptical initially saying this might be a bit of a nuisance, but I’ve been totally proved wrong.
“When you go into Buchan House now there are people using this service and being supported so I would say that is defintely the way forward.”