From office desk to kitchen table

The challenge of creating a remote contact centre service

When the government announced that it was putting the country into lockdown on 23 March, gradually millions of office workers were redeployed to home. For some businesses, home working was already part of a flexible working culture for staff. But for those who rely on an in-office IT system to do their job, a move to remote working was going to be a challenge.

That was the case for Bolton at Home’s 40-strong team of contact centre staff, who provide advice and support to tenants and residents over the phone. Head of Customer Experience, Warren Brierley, who manages the contact centre tells us how the transition from office desk to kitchen table has gone.

“We could see this was coming,” says Warren. “So we began planning for it early on. The biggest challenge was making the IT work in a home setting. In the office, the desktop phones are linked to a computer system which manages calls and data.

“First, we had to make sure staff could access the system on a laptop, and that it all worked properly. And then we had to think of an alternative to the desk top phones as the telephone system can’t work with a laptop. Luckily our staff have been really flexible and keen to help us find solutions to some of the challenges. They agreed to use their own mobile phones to take calls, which has worked really well. We also had a lot of support from our telephony provider, 4Sight, and our internal IT team to get this up and running.”

Warren adds that it was important to provide a healthy working environment at home so all staff have headsets and access to chairs with back support and other equipment if they want them, and their team leader keeps in regular contact, making sure each person is supported.

In fact, the organisation as a whole is currently reviewing IT and remote working for staff to ensure they have the right equipment needed to carry out their role at home.

“I’m so proud of the way contact centre staff have handled the situation,” adds Warren. “They’re all committed to their jobs and want to support tenants and residents during these difficult times.”

The latest call volumes

April 2020

7,088

Total calls received

7,015

Calls handled

99.0%

Calls answered %

May 2020

7,782

Total calls received

7,561

Calls handled

97.2%

Calls answered %

Business as usual

It took about two weeks to get all staff up and running while the service managed to continue as normal. “Initially our calls increased with tenants concerned about paying their rent, questions around repairs and how to get support during lockdown, but we’ve continued to maintain our targets on call handling times,” says Warren.

“We’re also looking at how we can proactively support tenants who are finding it difficult at the moment. To start with, we’re carrying out a survey with tenants to understand what support we can give, particularly to those who are the most vulnerable and isolated from their families.”

About the contact centre

There are 40 contact centre operatives working across three teams:

The Customer Service Advisors are the first point of contact for tenants ringing Bolton at Home. Enquiries are varied so the advisors need a good overall knowledge of the services we provide to be able to perform their role effectively.

The Planners play a critical role in the delivery of essential services. They liaise with numerous departments and balance priorities to ensure emergency repairs are attended to within the set timescales and raise any urgent follow up work that is required.

The Customer Care Team processes customer feedback and any complaints we receive. As always, we welcome any feedback or suggestions you have. You can call the team on 01204 328000 or email: customer.care@boltonathome.org.uk

Calls on the up

Calls to the contact centre went up in the last financial year (2019-20) to 160,818, a rise of 28,036 on the previous year. Calls were answered in an average of 42 seconds, beating our target of 60 seconds. And we answered 93.8% of calls compared to 92.9% last year.

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