Improvements to Lewes council’s helpline praised

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Councillors have praised the work of contact centre staff after hearing of recent efforts to improve to the council’s customer service helpline.

At a meeting of Lewes District Council’s employment committee on Monday (September 10), councillors heard how the service has been suffering from long call waiting times and delays, in part because of high levels of staff vacancies.

But, councillors were told, the service – which is shared with Eastbourne Borough Council – is now beginning to show signs of improvement, with call waiting times coming under control.

Several councillors praised the work of staff in making improvements, with committee chairman Elayne Merry (Con. – Peacehaven North) praising staff for ‘taking on the challenge of adapting’.

Cllr Merry said: “I went to spend an afternoon with the customer service department and it is amazing how much they get asked and what they get asked. I think they do a very good job in a challenging role.

“It has been an easy target for criticism and now there is a lot of work going on to try and bring it round. The fact they are working to address this, I think, is incredible and I just hope it carries on improving in the way it has been improving.

“I appreciate all the work they have been doing.  I know they have been short on staff and I think those that are there, well it is really hard for them.”

Paul Franklin (Con. – Seaford North) also praised the attitude of contact centre staff,  citing a letter he had received from one of his constituents.

He said: “She did have to wait for 17 minutes but at the end of it the person she dealt with, she said, was absolutely lovely. They apologised continuously and sorted her out. She was incredibly pleased.

“So there is a fantastic service, but she still had to wait 17 minutes to come through.”

However some concerns with the service were also raised, with Mike Chartier (Lib Dem – Lewes Castle) highlighting his own experience with the phone service.

Cllr Chartier said: “I don’t wish to be difficult, but I want to point out I have had trouble phoning the district and on one occasion I was hung up on. So was another colleague of mine as well.

“I understand there are pressures and I have worked in a profession under pressure. I am not trying to be negative but if that happens then it doesn’t help does it?”

Councillors also heard how improving the service has been made an aim for the team behind the joint transformation programme  – the process of merging services between Lewes District Council and Eastbourne Borough Council.