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When Enfield Council were looking to improve the effectiveness of their emergency out of hours service, they turned to the Ealing Council and Capita out of hours partnership service. By putting in place our expert customer service advisers and making the most of their interactive voice response technology, we reduced the number of non-urgent calls from 25% to 11% in 2 years.
When a resident of Enfield Council has an urgent issue, such as a dangerous structure to report, homelessness, or to speak to social services about a child needing protection, there’s often a need for immediate action out of usual office hours. When this is the case, the resident relies on the council’s out of hours telephone service – their call is assessed as to its urgency and passed to the relevant team for action.
Ensuring crucial services aren’t being diverted from where they’re needed
For Enfield Council, however, they were experiencing a high volume of calls not deemed to be an emergency, but which were still taking up significant resources for the operator to assess the situation. This was creating longer wait times for those on the line who had a genuine need for immediate action.
A resilient out of hours service delivered by people who understand
To help protect their residents and to be able to provide the best possible service at times of urgent need, Enfield Council selected the emergency out of hours partnership service provided by Ealing Council and Capita to deliver a high-quality, skilled contact centre which would answer citizens’ sensitive and critical-natured emergency enquiries.
Designed so that local authorities, housing associations and arms-length management organisations have access to our large pool of experienced out of hours customer service experts, Ealing Council - the lead local authority partner - formed the partnership with our team at Capita so that public sector organisations in the UK could deliver a more effective and resilient service by forgoing the need to have separate call handling functions in each organisation. Since its inception in October 2018 the partnership has answered over 66,000 calls, with 30,000 of those relating to social services and homelessness alone, supporting the most vulnerable citizens at the point they need it.
Making use of technology to triage calls and keep the lines clear
We firstly examined the data to understand the types of non-emergency calls being received by the Enfield Council out of hours team, and which of these were generating the highest volume of calls.
We identified where savings could be made if additional messaging was added to their interactive voice response (IVR) system to filter out calls which weren’t high priority. These options were added to the council’s IVR for callers to select. The caller would then be informed that their enquiry wasn’t appropriate for an emergency out of hours response, and were advised to call back when the relevant service was available.
Continually improving the service
To ensure the service remains up to date with customer demand and any changing legislation, we continue to work collaboratively with service leaders to review the service and outcomes on an ongoing basis. This includes reviewing the core non-emergency call drivers, and strengthening the IVRs and processes to support Enfield to further reduce costs and non-urgent contacts.
The impact: reduced non-emergency contacts and a more efficient service
In 2019, Enfield Council’s volume of non-emergency/general information calls was at 25% of their total out of hours call volume. By 2021, non-urgent calls had reduced to just 11% of the total, representing a saving of some £2,000 each month in call-handling time.
The benefit for Enfield’s residents is particularly significant – with the partnership’s experienced advisers triaging emergency calls, citizens receive an always-on, personalised out of hours service where their critical calls are always answered, even during the busiest periods. And for those calling with non-critical issues, they’re now better informed with clear messages and information on what to do next with their enquiry.
Enfield Council itself benefits from the customer service expertise and additional capacity of the partnership service which provides resilience even in times of peak demand. In addition, the powerful reporting and analytics provided by the service give valuable insight into common non-emergency call drivers so that they can continue to better utilise valuable staff resources.
We now have a more efficient and cost-effective service where non-emergency calls are filtered out early in the process, leaving customer service operators free to focus on getting help to citizens when they need it most.
Julie Pocock, Customer Operations Manager at Enfield Council