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Jaye Gannon

When an emergency occurs, the public need to be able to call on dependable customer support. A specialist out of hours service could be the answer.

You can’t predict when an emergency will occur. Recent times have made this unfortunate truth all too apparent, with people losing their jobs, businesses or homes during lockdown, falling into debt as they try to manage with less money, or struggling with their mental health. But at these key moments, the job of making sure your customers are supported is a crucial one. The right response at the right time will help people when they need it most.

I know, from the work of the out of hours contact centre at Capita, that there’s a person in need behind every call. By definition, the calls we take are often from people who are in distress or vulnerable. So, we see first-hand every day how treating every call with the right mix of clarity and empathy can make a real difference.

This is a challenge for public sector bodies like local authorities (LAs) or housing associations. How do you deal with unexpected events or spikes in call volumes and make sure that those most in need get to the front of the queue – and get the help they need fast?

One option is to call on an emergency out of hours (OOH) service – like the one my team at Capita provides. We support numerous councils and housing associations in handling and triaging urgent calls accurately and sympathetically. Our clients trust us because we have both the skilled call handlers and the experience of what it takes to give emergency customer service.

But what else should you expect from an OOH service like this? And how can you be sure that it will operate in a way that works for you and the people you serve? Below, I take a closer look at what you should be looking for in an emergency out of hours service. And some of the ways we can deliver.

Who needs your help?

Social services support. Dangerous structures. Emergency homelessness. Urgent enquiries come in many forms. So, it’s important to check that your OOH service provider understands the spread of services they might be supporting. And that they have the right people with the right training and empathy to respond to people in need.

The team here at Capita, for example, support 36 different types of service across our clients. And these relationships go back years. Not only do we have a significant understanding of how local government needs to operate and provide services, we also know your systems, your policies and the bespoke service you need to provide to your citizens.

You know the script

Key to the success of any OOH service is the diagnostic questioning at the heart of the call script. This is how you triage people consistently and effectively and make sure those in need are getting the right level of help and support. To create these scripts, we work closely with clients to tailor them to the policies, procedures and outcomes that the council or housing association requires for each emergency situation. Then, we make sure every one of our out of hours call centre team is trained to the highest standards to effectively deliver them.

We’ve been developing these kinds of scripts for a decade. And as a lot of issues and services across local authorities and housing association are the same, these scripts can often form a template for the service we can provide to your organisation. Which means getting service-ready quickly (but more on this below).

The human touch

The rigour of a well-put-together script is important. But an OOH service is also frequently taking calls from vulnerable people in difficult situations. People who want to hear a voice. A reassuring tone from someone who is empathetic and clear about their role can go a long way. It’s therefore important to know that you’re getting a service from experienced staff who take pride in their work and have had relevant training. This creates the combination of kindness and clarity that matters when someone calls in distress.

Ready to respond?

By their very nature, emergencies call for swift action. You will often need to set up support from an OOH service quickly. For us, it’s the range of our call scripts and our access to experienced call handlers that help us give you the support you need fast.

And this is a speed of response that we will only increase as we continue to grow and refine our working-from-home practices. It will mean we can mobilise our people to respond to calls in a concerted fashion without them needing to get to our offices first.

It also means that we can ease the pressure of many more people becoming vulnerable over the past few months and needing emergency help. We can give you the space to be strategic as well as reactive, maintain the high quality of your service to citizens and tenants, and comply with constantly changing legislation – while protecting your people’s wellbeing and focusing on your most vulnerable callers.

We can make you even more ready to respond to the challenges that the pandemic has thrown up with our resilience consultations, an opportunity to review your situation and issues with one of our experts and create a plan of action for tackling them.

Getting to the calls that matter

Of course, not every query to an OOH line will be an emergency. But we make sure that we deal with non-urgent calls swiftly and politely. Our team logs the enquiry, so council or housing association employees can get back to the customer in working hours. This prevents another call coming in during the day. But, more importantly, it quickly resolves the non-urgent call so that the line is free for calls from someone in danger or discomfort.

We can also flex what we offer: to handle all the calls for a certain service or to act as an overflow service. Either way, you only pay for the calls we handle for you. It's all part of delivering a fast, efficient service. And creating value for public money.

Listen and learn

Finally, bringing in an external service should not reduce your visibility of calls in any way. That’s why we can record, audit and analyse all our calls. And we can give you detailed reports.
The value of this is more than compliance and peace of mind. You can use the insights you unearth to improve the services you provide to citizens.

There in their time of need

High-quality OOH customer service support can help to keep the public at ease and safe even when offices are closed. But finding the most effective way to provide this kind of service is tricky. At Capita, we specialise in helping public organisations get it right. We have both the expertise and access to experienced call handlers to put an effective service in place – promptly.

Learn more about our services

Written by

Jaye Gannon

Jaye Gannon

Out of Hours Contact Centre Operations Manager, Capita

Jaye has been delivering enhanced customer service and efficiencies for multiple local government organisations and social housing landlords for over 14 years. She has a proven record of supporting her customers and clients during major unplanned incidents such as severe weather and emergency situations, providing quick responses to ensure a streamlined continued service delivery.

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