Welcome to the new blog of Better for Everyone, the UK call centre with intelligence, integrity and initiative based in Bradford, West Yorkshire!

The traditional call centre approach has earned the industry its awful sweatshop image and reputation for terrible customer service. I knew there was potential for something much better and that creating my own company with a better, more ethical approach to call centre services was the right thing to do.

Through this blog, we’ll keep you informed of our news and let you know our thoughts on what’s going on in the industry and in management generally, so do keep coming back.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Police call centre hits targets - should we cheer or be worried?

Last week, the Edinburgh Evening News reported that figures have been published to say that the police call centre at Bilston Glen has exceeded national targets (for example in terms of time to answer and the number of calls abandoned by the caller) for answering 999 calls.

Oh dear – they clearly don’t understand how dangerous having targets like this might be….

In a nutshell, whilst we’d all agree that emergency calls need to be answered quickly, the target that is in place (to answer 90% of emergency calls within 10 seconds) is at best arbitrary and at worst life threatening!

This is because setting targets like these changes the purpose of the people doing the work - effectively the focus of their work is moved from ‘do the job well’ to ‘meet the target’.

If the target is difficult to achieve, then the emergency call handlers may only be able to reach it by ‘cheating’. And they will; they will do all they can to avoid failing to meet work targets – especially if, like the call centre at Bilston Glen, they’ve been heavily criticized in the media since they opened! Don’t get me wrong, though - this isn’t because of the people – I’m sure everyone working on the phones at Bilston Glen just want to serve the public well. They just need to be allowed to!

It is imperative to a caller to 999 that their call is dealt with properly and completely, with the appropriate follow up activity delivered by the right people at the right time – not just that their call is answered quickly! After all – someone’s life could depend on it!!

On balance, whilst it’s important to understand how long callers are having to wait and how many callers hang up (after all, they are calling in an emergency, so in an ideal world we’d really like to answer all calls immediately!), they shouldn’t be a target, nor should they be the key metrics used to measure the service.

Measures like this (and others such as call volumes – offered and answered, and calls answered per call handler) help call centre managers the means to manage resource in response to volume. But they miss the most crucial aspect of service measurement: they fail to address why people call and how well (or otherwise) the call centre (or in this case the call centre and other emergency service providers) responds to that call. More worryingly, such measures do not demonstrate calls that could have been prevented.

The managers at Bilston Glen need to start
listening to what their callers say, and measuring what matters to them and how well they respond to what callers say. Then and only then, will Bilston Glen become a call centre worthy of public acclaim in its local newspaper!

But will that ever happen? – This blogger remains skeptical….