Our contact centre service provided an expert remote team to manage council tax enquiries. It meant Broadland and South Norfolk councils could avoid short-term recruitment during lockdown.
By February, the joint team had seen many of their skilled council tax employees move into new roles in the organisation. So they used agency staff to plug the gaps.
Revenues Manager Simon Quilter explains: “We’ve always been lucky with the quality of our agency staff, but it’s inevitably hard to retain them for long periods. You’re constantly managing training and building new relationships, so the time was right to try something different.”
Starting on 12th March, we allocated three highly-trained staff to work as an extension to South Norfolk’s team. They started taking customer enquiries about council tax and updating the council’s revenues system remotely.
This service would soon become invaluable during lockdown, when we’d need to take all of Broadland’s calls.
“NEC were up and running almost immediately. Their staff are council tax experts too, so we didn’t need to spend time on recruitment or training.”
At the start of lockdown, Broadland faced a major challenge as their phone system couldn’t be accessed from home. Using South Norfolk’s team would also prove difficult as the council used a different revenues and benefits system.
So we took over the calls and an automated message asked customers to call a different number.
Coming just after annual billing, and with many customers wanting to defer payments or cancel direct debits due to the impact of Covid-19, it was clear Broadland needed extra support. So from 1 April 2020, we provided an additional three people.
At the start of June 2020, we’d answered almost 10,000 calls on behalf of both councils, boosting the capacity of the in-house team and keeping service levels high at a time of peak demand.
“Working with NEC allowed us to bring in flexible support that feels just like part of our internal team. Having confidence in our relationship and the skill of NEC staff means that we are happy for them to take a public facing role on behalf of our authority.”
Simon explains the benefits of working with NEC this way: “Trusted relationships matter enormously, so I’ve never asked a third party to manage customer contact before. But my experience of working with NEC has been very positive. They know council tax inside out, they can work on different systems and they’ve given us the flexibility to dial the service up and down.”
They now have six NEC staff supporting both councils, providing much-needed breathing space as permanent recruitment ramps up. Demand can be balanced between both councils too, with some back office tasks getting completed when call volumes drop.
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