Customer service centre opening hours
- Period: 13 March 2023 - 23 April 2023
- Status: Closed
- Audiences: Everyone
- Topics: Customer services
- Type: Public
What is this consultation about?
Shropshire Council’s customer service centre handles telephone and other forms of contact from our customers for around 50 different council services. It's currently open from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays.
Some parts of our customer service centre handle complex issues for Shropshire’s residents, things like adult social care, concerns for children, risk of homelessness or financial crises affecting families, and these types of contact from people will always need a skilled adviser and a telephone call to resolve them, but many other calls, to the more 'generalist' side, are for relatively simple things that could be done another way, particularly using online requests.
Since we last looked at these opening hours, the council’s website offer has developed considerably, meaning that many people are now able to make simpler requests for council services at any time of the day or night, regardless of office hours.
We know also that making such requests online is a far more cost-effective way for us as a council to do things – it costs around £2.83 to handle a phone call, but an online transaction might cost just 15p, so doing more this way is much better for us as a council, especially when finances are difficult.
However we fully recognise that not everyone is able to go online, and that sometimes there's a need to speak to someone anyway for things to be able to progress, so this isn't a consultation about closing our customer service centre; it's about us trying to balance the hours that we need to be open to help people with these 'generalist' calls, with encouraging our customers to do more online so that we're handling service requests as efficiently as possible.
And there's one other advantage to encouraging more of our customers to do business with us online – it frees up time for our skilled advisers to concentrate on important preventative work for Shropshire residents and households who may be in need of additional support.
Throughout the difficulties of the Covid pandemic and its aftermath, and now into the cost of living crisis, the customer service centre has made tens of thousands of calls to Shropshire’s residents to check that they're coping, that they're safe and either getting the help they need or know how and where to find it. This is work we'd like to do more of, and considering the availability of better online services we now seek to reduce the opening times of the customer services centre to free up staff time to concentrate on this important work.
The table below shows how the level of calls to these general service lines over the last four years.
Number of calls
What do you need to do?
This document explains different options for new opening times for our generalist services together with the potential advantages and disadvantages of each, and we're inviting you to give us your views on these options. Please note that no formal decision has been made at this stage. The information we receive through this consultation will be used to inform the decision on our future opening times.
Please complete the very short consultation form. You'll find it on the 'How to get involved' tab on this page.
The potential impact of any changes on our customers has been assessed by completing an equality, social inclusion and health impact assessment. This is something that we complete to show that we've been fair when looking at the needs of customers, especially those who might be affected more by any changes.
You may find the information in our frequently asked questions section on this page useful.
What are we proposing?
We're proposing changes to the times during which Customer Service Centre will take generalist calls from customers. The different options and the advantages and disadvantages of each are laid out below.
Is there a recommendation or a preferred proposal?
Yes, we do have a preferred option and this is based on what we know about the pattern of phone calls we receive throughout the day, together with how much staff time we could free up in return for shorter opening hours so that we can make more outbound calls to people with support needs.
Our preferred proposal would be for our generalist lines to be open from 9am to 3pm Monday to Friday.
This is based on the fact that these opening times:
- Are regular and recognisable each day and therefore easier to remember
- Cover the majority of the working day and the most popular times when we know we receive most of our calls
- Still represent around 55% of our current opening hours, meaning that we can still help anyone who isn't able to do business online
- Would free up around 100 hours per week for our advisers to do preventative work for people with support needs
The survey questionnaire asks for your agreement, comments or otherwise on the different proposals, or if you wish to make any alternative suggestions.
The options to consider are listed below.
Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm, closed Saturdays. Total opening hours per week: 30 (55.5% of current opening times)
- Uniform opening times more easily recognised by residents
- Few calls are received before 9am therefore minimal disruption to calls in the morning
- These opening times release up to 11 staff for two hours Monday to Thursday, plus ten staff for two hours on Friday, theoretically up to 108 staff hours to dedicate to preventative outbound calls in the afternoons
- Still relatively high numbers of calls currently received between 3pm and 5pm before they tail off, we would expect there to be a period of adjustment for residents during this adjustment where waiting times will be longer
- Doesn't address the higher call numbers at the start of a week, again a period of adjustment for residents
- No outbound calls envisaged prior to 9am
Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm, closed Saturdays. Total opening hours per week: 30 (55.5% of current opening times)
- Uniform opening times more easily recognised by residents
- Releases up to 11 staff for one hour a day Monday to Thursday and ten staff for one hour on Friday, theoretically up to 54 staff hours to dedicate to preventative outbound calls – (afternoons only)
- Disruption to relatively high call numbers between 9am and 10am, risk that these calls may then present at 10am leading to long wait times in the morning
- Possible disruption for residents over a period of adjustment
- May be possible to make outbound calls prior to 10am but success rate and effectiveness is questionable
- Far fewer staff hours available each week to make preventative outbound calls
Monday and Tuesday 9am to 3.30pm, Wednesday and Thursday 9am to 3pm, Friday 10am to 3pm. Total opening hours per week: 30 (55.5% of current opening times)
- Slightly longer opening times Monday and Tuesday attempt to address higher call levels earlier in the week
- Releases up to 11 staff for 1.5 hours Monday and Tuesday, 11 staff for two hours Wednesday and Thursday, and ten staff for two hours on Fridays, theoretically 97 hours a week to dedicate to preventative outbound calls
- Opening times may not be easy for residents to remember
- Still some possible disruption to calls attempted after 3/3:30pm meaning a period of adjustment for residents
- Outbound calls prior to 10am on the Friday is possible but success rate and effectiveness is questionable
Monday and Tuesday 9am to 5pm, Wednesday to Friday 9am to 3pm. Total opening hours: 34 (63% of current opening hours)
- Longer opening times on Monday and Tuesday address attempt to higher call volumes at the start of the week
- Minimal disruption to calls in the mornings
- Potentially easier opening pattern for residents to remember
- Releases up to 11 staff for two hours Wednesday and Thursday, and up to ten staff on Friday, theoretically 54 staff hours per week for outbound calls
- Still some possible disruption to calls attempted after 3pm Wednesday to Friday
- Far fewer staff hours available each week to make outbound preventative calls. Possible bias towards transactional calls over outbound wellbeing calls
- Only able to make outbound calls later in the week
Frequently asked questions
These questions and answers offer more information on the above proposal.
Share your thoughts with us on this proposal by using our short survey.Go to the survey »
If you'd like the survey in an alternative format please use the email below to request a copy, or call our customer services team on 0345 678 9000 and explain any support you need to allow you to respond.
You can also respond with any comments in writing:
- Email: TellUs@shropshire.gov.uk
- Post: Feedback and Insight Team, Shropshire Council, Shirehall, Abbey Foregate, Shropshire SY2 6ND