Respect is key says Council scrutiny review into customer services

Treating all Hackney residents with respect is one of the key findings from Hackney s Council’s Governance and Resources Scrutiny Commission review of Customer Services.

Dealing with the hundreds of thousands of phone calls and face-to-face enquiries via its Customer Contact Centre is part of the Council s core business.

Hackney currently receives around 375,000 phone calls 185,000 face-to-face visitors each year. These entail anything from straightforward enquiries such as where recycling centres are located to complex problems from residents facing homelessness or people needing benefits assessments.

For its review, the Commission concentrated on three areas: whether the Council’s Service First initiative had made a difference, how effectively the Council uses knowledge about customer satisfaction to improve customer service, and whether Hackney’s approach to customer services is right for the challenges facing public services in the future.

For the review, the Commission collected first-hand experiences from customers, sought expert opinion, listened in to telephone calls, compared approaches with other local authorities, and spoke with senior staff.

As a result, the Commission made a number of recommendations to help improve service to customers. These include moving towards more online services whilst taking care not to exclude those who don’t use the internet; encouraging local partners to use the Hackney Service Centre (HSC); exploring the changes to opening hours at the Service Centre; more detailed customer research and emphasising the importance of treating all customers with respect.

Cllr Robert Chapman, Chair of the Governance and Resources Scrutiny Commission said: "Hackney has made great strides to improve customer service in recent years, but the financial climate means that there is an ongoing challenge to offer great service with less resource. For example, we will need to strike the right balance between doing more things online and helping those who need face-to-face assistance. We hope that the recommendations from this review will inform decisions to get that balance right, whilst continuing to provide value for money to Hackney residents."

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