8.1 The chair invited the head of customer experience, Richard Selley, to present the Customer Service Performance Monitoring report. He explained that, when he had last attended the committee, the council was taking advice on the Vangent contract. The council had now informed Vangent that it would be terminating the contract two years earlier than anticipated and that the customer services functons would now be delivered in house. Officers believed that the council could make savings as Vangent’s overheads were high and the service would no longer need to make a profit. The head of customer experience explained that the council had already released considerable savings in the last year through closer management of the contract and service channel shift – i.e. encouraging customers to access services using cheaper channels, like the web.
8.2 The head of customer experience said that the council's contract with Vangent was based on transactional costs, so that every time a customer called the Customer Service Centre or visited a One Stop Shop they would receive a payment. This provided no incentive for Vangent to reduce call volumes or seek to get customers to use cheaper service access channels. The new service would be investing in staff and would not be a script-based service.
8.3 A member welcomed this development and asked if officers also thought that the council should take the housing repairs service in house. The head of customer experience responded that, for contracted services, having a sole provider could mean that you lost the competitive edge.
8.4 Members asked how moving the customer service in-house would improve the quality of the service and how the council would deliver the new service. The head of customer experience explained that the new service would be under member and officer control. The service would be delivered largely from the new Queen’s Road site in Peckham. The Vangent service had delivered well in terms of answering calls; however the outcomes for customers had sometimes been poor. The new service would promote advocacy for the customer by the customer service centre. This would be easier once the service was not divorced from its implementation. A member commented that he hoped that staff would be empowered to chase repairs and contractors.
8.5 Members asked how the council was managing the risks of disengaging from the Vangent contract and if the council was developing the in-house service in shadow form. The head of customer experience explained that there was an exit strategy and strong governance around transition of the service. He explained that one of the possible risks was that the Queen’s Road site might not being ready in time. Some work might be done in parallel to mitigate the risk and there would be a phased approach, for example, a new switchboard was being developed.
8.6 The head of customer experience explained that there were up to three hundred and fifty staff that could be transferred over using TUPE, however many of these were part time. There was also a delivery site in Yorkshire, but these staff were not expected to transfer to Queen’s Road. The in house service might have to take over more staff than were eventually needed.
8.7 A member noted that when the council brought in the council tax service there were hiccups. He recommended that officers looked at this.
8.8 Members asked if the ending of the contact with Vangent had meant that the council incurred costs and the head of customer experience explained that Southwark had not incurred any costs, as there had been a technical breach of the contract. He went on to explain that there would be costs to be incurred as the council would need to invest in setting up the new service. He further explained that there was some question over the service operating model and whether there would be a large contact centre and that this would go to chief officers and then to cabinet for discussion and decision in July.
8.9 Members asked if there were risks around Vangent’s delivery for the duration of the remaining contract. The head of customer experience said that there were risks of quality falling, however the council was still managing the contract proactively and many of the staff would TUPE over, which was an incentive to maintain performance.
8.10 Members then moved on to consider the report on complaints. A member commented that he thought there would be more complaints on Children’s Services, particularly around admissions. The head of customer experience explained that this was a situation where there was a split; the call centre handled some questions, but Children's Services dealt with more sensitive or complex calls directly.
8.11 A member asked if there was a council wide report and the head of customer experience said there was and that this went to CMT.
8.12 A member commented on the volume of complaints to Regeneration and Neighbourhoods and the head of customer experience said that this was improving.
8.13 There was a discussion about members enquires and the different methods used, including using icasework, member support or the use of informal contacts. The head of customer experience said that complaints that came to his team were resolved quite quickly. Members noted that a web interface for the iphone would be helpful.
That Officers return to a meeting of the committee in the next municipal year with:
- A global report on complaints received by the call centre and more sensitive or detailed complaints dealt with by departments. This would provide details on whether complaints were falling in volume, on the amount escalating to the next stage and the numbers resulting in a payout.
- A detailed report on complaints received on the allocation of school places, including information on how many places were allocated manually.