a) Customer Contact
The Chair presented the interim findings of the Scrutiny Task and Finish Group following its examination of customer contact between the public and Middlesbrough Council.
The Chair stated that the study had sought to partly examine how the public contacts Middlesbrough Council in respect of environmental service requests but, mainly, on what services should be available to the public in the future.
One of the areas that had been looked at was electronic means of reporting issues - both in terms of how the system works now and how it might work in the future.
ORDERED that the following conclusions and recommendations be fed into future consideration of this topic:-
a) It is important to ensure that all ways in which customers contact Middlesbrough Council ensure customer satisfaction through a high standard service that delivers the right outcome at the earliest opportunity. While the task and finish groups work concentrated on environmental issues, which represents only a small part of customer contact, Council systems should ensure that this principle applies across all service areas.
b) While moves towards electronic communication and online reporting through My Middlesbrough are to be welcomed as a way of improving service provision, these must not preclude groups of customers who do not have access to, or are unable or unwilling to use, such methods. Methods of contacting the authority must ensure that all sections of the public/customers are included.
c) The My Middlesbrough website allows only a limited number of environmental issues to be reported. For example, it is not possible to report general litter, uneven footpaths or broken glass on a footpath. Also, the existing online reporting system means that it can be difficult to identify what areas of land are in Council ownership and, therefore, difficult to determine local authority responsibility.
d) Existing reporting systems do not include electronic feedback to customers to advise on progress. This is an issue that should be addressed.
e) The introduction of mobile technology reporting systems for operatives in Area Care/Streetscene, would provide an opportunity to improve service provision.
f) There is an opportunity to review and improve arrangements for dealing with referrals that are made from the Customer Contact Centre to Streetscene in respect of environmental issues. At the present time, there are gaps in the knowledge of contact centre staff. Better information provision at the first point of contact could mean a swifter resolution of issues raised.
g) There is an opportunity to review/streamline the existing Members One Stop reporting system, which can be lengthy and onerous.
h) The recorded message that customers hear when telephoning the Customer Contact Centre can be lengthy and off-putting to callers - the possibility of connecting callers immediately, when there is no queue, will be investigated.
i) Service in respect of customer contact could be improved by widening service provision at Council community hubs and libraries.
a) That services available through the My Middlesbrough website are expanded and improved.
b) That systems are developed that automatically inform customers of progress.
c) That an electronic reporting system is introduced that facilitates easier identification of relevant areas of land by Council customers, including mobile phone users, and to include whether land is owned by Middlesbrough Council. (It was noted that work is already underway on this).
d) That, once improvements have been made, digital/electronic communication is promoted as the default method of customers contacting Middlesbrough Council.
e) That alternative methods of communication also continue to be easily available for customers who have no access to, or do not feel able to use, electronic communication.
f) That the introduction of mobile reporting technology by operatives in Area Care/Streetscene is examined as a priority.
g) That the process for dealing with environmental issues at the Councils Customer Contact Centre is reviewed.
This should include:
reviewing/updating existing scripts;
examining whether it could be beneficial to co-locate the contact centre and relevant streetscene staff; and
providing further training to contact centre staff on environmental issues.
h) That the number of different telephone numbers available to the public is examined with a view to reducing them.
i) That Council community hubs and libraries are provided with the necessary equipment, and staff the appropriate training, to operate as customer contact points.
j) That the Councils One Stop Shop system of Member reporting is reviewed, with a view to reducing the amount of processes involved.
k) That the recorded message that greets all callers should not be of a length that deters people from contacting the Council, or is too costly for mobile phone users.
l) That the process for dealing with blue badge applications is reviewed alongside the Stockton Council model, with a view to making it simpler for the public.
m) That the issue of customer contact in the wider sense (e.g. benefits) is considered.
n) That, where appropriate, customers be involved in reviewing and improving customer contact, in accordance with these recommendations.
The Chair presented the interim findings of the Scrutiny Task and Finish Group, following its examination of volunteering in Middlesbrough Council.
The Chair mentioned that there had been some concern that volunteers could be replacing Middlesbrough Council staff in some instances. This was not the case.
A Member said he would be interested to know the areas that comprised community regeneration - the area with the largest number of volunteers. The Scrutiny Support Officer said that he would ascertain this information for Members.
a) That the Board place on record its thanks to volunteers who help support Council services and the staff who work with them.
b) That this be considered as a possible future scrutiny topic, to include broader areas, potentially.