Birmingham City Council’s call centre has saved £4 million a year and proved more popular with customers since it was taken in house at the end of 2014.
The contact centre service, which citizens call to raise concerns or make enquiries about a range of issues from council tax and benefits to housing and bins, had previously been run by private firm Capita under the Service Birmingham contract, signed in 2005.
But it had been heavily criticised over soaring costs, poor service and a poor communication with council service departments, prompting the decision to take it under council control.
Since outsourcing ended, costs have been slashed and the customer satisfaction rate has risen from 49 per cent to 69 per cent.
The costs are set to further reduce by an estimated £1 million a year by 2020 as more information and services are made available online via the council’s website or smart phone apps.
The call centre receives some two million telephone calls and 60,000 emails a year.
It also handles issues through social media and the city council’s website, which was revamped in 2016.
A web chat service, often used by retailers and other commercial operators online allowing customers to type a conversation with a member of staff, is being launched later this year.
A new Brum Account, through which citizens will be able to access a wide range of council service online, from reporting a missed bin to paying for council tax, is also being developed and is designed to reduce the need for lengthy telephone calls to get information.
According to a report to the council’s co-ordinating scrutiny committee there were just 408 complaints about the centre, about 0.02 per cent of all calls.
The report said: “The direction of travel in citizen satisfaction with the services received via the contact centre has continued to increase.
“This is enabled by close working between the contact centre and services to identify and deliver service improvements and where possible the increase in provision and take up of services and information online.”
Back in 2014 the council decided to take over the call centre and its 308 staff after surveys found customers were increasingly unhappy.
Capita had been paid according to volume of calls rather than quality of service, meaning a frustrated repeat caller was worth more than an instantly satisfied customer.
But also blamed were council departments, such as the refuse collection service, for not acting on requests and complaints received by the call centre. It was claimed that Capita’s call centre had been a scapegoat for poor performance by council services.