Customer services staff take over 12,000 telephone calls more during lockdown compared to same period last year

Staff working in customers services at Bridgend County Borough Council have taken over 12,000 more telephone calls during the past couple of months than they did last year for the same period.

In total, the team who are all working from home have answered 28,710 calls since lockdown, dealing with 6,300 emails and hundreds of requests for information on social media.

With a further 3,300 interactions via the council’s chatbot which launched last summer the total number of interactions has reached 40,000.

In the same period last year, the total number of telephone calls taken was 16,901.

Since the end of March, the team has taken on a raft of additional responsibilities ranging from assessing and organising the delivery of food parcels for residents who are ‘shielding’ and linking directly with Welsh Government over the scheme to liaising with the voluntary sector to ensure other means of support is provided such as prescription deliveries, wellbeing checks and in-house care.

With the local authority providing around 800 separate services and residents no longer able to walk into the civic offices, a new telephone system was set up to enable calls to be answered as quickly as possible by routing to the correct service area.

When residents called the council before the lockdown they had three options to choose from, being waste, council tax and housing benefits. They now have 11 telephone options.

The team which also includes the community support unit has continued to provide its out of hours service, dealing with residents calls and emails, while monitoring CCTV and reporting any suspicious activities to the police.

To help meet the extra demand during busy periods, four staff have been redeployed from other areas boosting the team to 32 members of staff.

Meanwhile some staff have also been deployed on the new Test Trace Protect scheme now live in Wales, calling those who may have come into contact with people who have tested positive for coronavirus.

The Leader, Huw David, said: “With more than 5,000 residents receiving ‘shielding’ letters from the Welsh Government and being advised to call our customer services if they required help and support, staff had to quickly adapt and ensure the correct processes were in place.

“It has been a monumental effort by the entire team who despite a radical change to their way of working have continued to ensure residents are still looked after throughout the day and night.

“In addition to taking on extra duties such as liaising with Welsh Government and the company responsible for delivering food parcels to residents, being trained on a new system and script and, in some cases, assisting other services while they were being set-up for homeworking, the team has continued to take calls on all its usual areas such as council tax, blue badges, highways and pest control.

“For many this has been while juggling childcare at home and without the team sitting alongside them.”