Capita’s out of hours call handling services is making sure council residents receive the right help, quickly and efficiently, at any time of the day or night.

Issue

When someone needs urgent support, it’s vital that they can reach the right help, whatever the time of day. Councils, housing associations and other public sector providers have a duty to ensure that support is available 24/7 for situations such as emergency homelessness, dangerous structures and emergency highway issues, or situations needing social services support or environmental health.  

But providing in-house out of hours support is a costly addition to already over-stretched budgets.

Ealing Council has, for many years, been open to public / private sector partnership working – and a shared service approach – as part of its commitment to better services for residents and customers. And the council already managed a contract for an out of hours customer contact service, shared with other London boroughs. That contract expired in 2018 and Ealing Council was looking for a new partner – one with the scale, infrastructure, experience and capacity to support the growth and future expansion of the service, but would also protect local jobs. 

Our approach

Capita was selected for the new out of hours call handling services in September 2018, for an initial seven years, beginning in October. We made sure there was a seamless transfer, with the same staff from the previous contract bringing their skills and knowledge. But we also had the added advantage of our Dearne Valley contact centre, in South Yorkshire, where we could offer flexible capacity and technology to support the plans to expand the contract further, to handle out of hours customer support from councils across the UK, not just in London.

Sharing services with other public sector organisations offers substantial savings, delivers a more effective service and provides resilience, especially in crisis scenarios. By foregoing the need to have separate call handling functions in each participating organisation, the service is estimated to reduce costs to around one third of the in-house handling level.

This speedy call answering service is available during evenings, weekends and public holidays, with options to extend the hours of operation beyond this at very short notice.

All of our agents have many years of experience in handling a range of out of hours calls and, coupled with an effective triage approach, they can resolve high volumes of calls efficiently, reducing emergency duty officer call outs.

We use a tailored management system, which records the resolution to the call and all follow on actions, to make sure that the handover to daytime services is seamless. We also continuously develop and refine individual scripts, that allow the majority of common calls to be resolved at first point of contact and ensures each caller receives an excellent and consistent service, no matter who they speak to.

The outcome

Michelle Bernard, Commercial Manager at Ealing, has found the scripting system crucial to delivering an effective service. "If the scripts and flow charts are correct and up to date, then there's no room for error," she says.

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“We're not compromising on our service – if anything, we've improved it. We continuously monitor the service – all the calls are recorded; the call abandonment rate is extremely low with no complaints about the service.” Michelle Bernard, Commercial Manager at Ealing

Ms Bernard estimates that Ealing has saved around £100,000 per year through sharing services with other public sector providers. She goes on to say that working collaboratively with other councils has not only helped cut costs but has helped improve service delivery.

"Relationship-building within the partnership has proven to be beneficial. We benefit from our back offices learning and adopting new ways to deliver services as we share best practice and fully engage in collaborative working – sharing a font of years of experience and knowledge with one another. It's been very productive in every aspect."

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