Select Committee on Public Accounts Twentieth Report


The Office of the e-Envoy

1.As anticipated in its guidelines issued in May 2000 the Office of the e-Envoy should commission reviews of departments' use of call centres and their compliance with the guidance on delivering better public services.
2.To make it easier for the public to be aware of the services which call centres provide and whom to contact, call centre details should be routinely published in telephone directories and made available through directory enquiries services.

Ensuring that call centres deliver services which meet people's needs

3.All call centres should monitor the quality of service which they provide to their customers through a range of indicators including independent surveys, mystery shopping, listening to a sample of calls to assess how well they are handled as well as providing a widely advertised process by which customers can complain if they are not satisfied with the service they receive.
4.The Passport Agency and the Environment Agency have systems in place to provide the capacity and flexibility to deal with fluctuations in the volume of calls they receive. Similarly, the Driving Standards Agency has staffing arrangements that allow it to cope with fluctuating levels of calls. This is in contrast, however, to the Child Benefit Centre where, although the number of callers who receive an engaged tone has reduced from a peak of nearly 1.5 million in September 2001, there still remain some 45,000 who do not get connected immediately. This has much to do with staffing arrangements that poorly reflect the actual pattern of calls received. The Centre therefore needs to identify further ways of ensuring that it has enough staff working at the right time to handle the expected volume of calls.
5.Cost per call minute is only a broad measure of call centre cost effectiveness, though it can indicate areas of performance which require investigation. Departments also need to monitor a number of other indicators such as the number of calls answered within specified times, the length of time callers spend on hold, the number who hear an engaged tone, the quality of the information provided, the fluctuation in the number of calls and the total cost of responding to calls. Such information will help them to identify early enough when call centre resources may not be providing value for money so that remedial action can be taken.
6.Using a call centre to handle calls for a number of different services, as is done by some private sector call centre companies, can provide greater flexibility to improve the handling of calls. In deciding to establish a call centre departments need to consider whether in-house or outsourced provision will best meet the requirements for the services they wish to provide.
7.When call centres are outsourced departments should agree and approve the contractor's working conditions and regularly seek assurance that they remain of an appropriate standard.


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