Customer services: varied, never quiet and sometimes a challenge!

Contact centreMost people think of customer services as a call centre and, although most of our contact is via telephone, we also have customers that like to come in and talk to us in the Customer Contact Centre.

The types of enquiry or requests for help range from providing permits to hand out leaflets in the borough, to dealing with people who have concerns about their parents or elderly neighbours.

Believe it or not, we’ve even been asked questions such as: “why is there sand on the beach?” and “can I speak to the person in charge of the zombie invasion action plan?!” 

In a year we:

  • receive over 300,000 telephone enquiries;
  • interact with over 65,000 customers in the contact centre at the Town Hall;
  • handle over 100,000 emails;
  • issue over 2,000 parking permits;
  • welcome over 13,000 to the Town Hall main reception;
  • process over 13,000 applications for adult bus passes;
  • process over 3,000 Blue Badge applications;
  • manage 1,200 applications for free school meals;
  • attend 27 schools to brief parents on the process for children moving from year 6 to year 7;
  • and host outreach sessions at children’s centres each month and much, much more!

Customer services team

Each day, our team takes calls from residents who just don’t know who to call to ask about things so they call the Council, regardless of whether it’s to do with a service that the Council delivers or not. We always try our best to help wherever we can and it’s clear that people do trust us.

We realise however that we cannot please everyone all of the time. So, we just deal with each call, email or visit as it happens. One call we receive could be a complaint, and then we’ll put ourselves in the customer’s shoes and recognise that the issue has been important enough for them to take the time to contact us about it. Then the next call that comes in could be a hilariously funny and engaging customer, like the lady who told us that she was registering for the garden waste scheme “because I have a huge rear”!

Every day brings something new and challenging. This month it has been people wanting to register for the garden waste collection service. Since 2 January we have been receiving upward of 200 contacts each day and in total over 14,000 households have now registered (87% via our website).

In today’s digital world, we are seeing a subtle shift away from walk ins and telephone contact with customers choosing to use the online services available. It is clear that more and more people are wanting to interact with the Council at times of their choice and through their preferred channel. As the population of Bournemouth changes, (the average age is now 34), people are used to doing more for themselves.

Social mediaThis does throw us some challenges too! Customers expect answers more quickly nowadays, which means that waiting for a response for up to 10 days is no longer always acceptable. For us this means we need to change the way we work and how we think about future engagement, like becoming more active on social media for example.

Simply put, Customer Services is varied, never quiet, sometimes challenging, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

There goes the phone again…!


Stuart Walters

Customer Contact Manager

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