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Council asks for ‘patience and respect’ amid new challenges for customer services

Published on Monday, March 30, 2020

Person on mobile phone

THE coronavirus outbreak has meant new challenges for everyone and the people helping to keep Leicester City Council’s customer service line running are no exception.

The whole operation has moved out of its fully-equipped base at York House and all call handlers are now working from their own homes. The service is currently running with 31 team members – just over half its normal size – but continues to deal with all requests received through the council’s website, by email or telephone.

Over the last week, the customer service team has seen a surge in the number of coronavirus related enquiries it receives each day.

The team has seen a sharp rise in people needing urgent support and financial assistance as a result of the current situation.

Calls for council tax support alone have seen a 50 per cent increase over the last week, with around 600 people enquiring about urgent help with their bill.

A new email address for crisis support received almost 250 enquiries in its first two days. Each person emailing will be contacted directly by a member of staff and an application for support discussed over the phone.

As a result, calls can take longer to complete and waiting times to get through to the customer services team may take longer than normal.

A drop in the number of non-urgent enquiries is helping with staffing challenges, with overall call volumes reducing by around 25 per cent to just over 6,000 calls received last week.

Sadly, the service has experienced a rise in verbal abuse towards the people answering calls and is reminding everyone to exercise patience and respect in these testing times.

Alison Greenhill, Leicester City Council director of finance and customer services, said: “The team is working flat out to rise to the new challenges that our customers face as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

“Fortunately, our robust business continuity plan means that we can maintain effective contact with our customers, despite our main offices now being closed and staff working from home.

“The majority of people who get in touch have been fantastic. We are dealing with calls from the most vulnerable people as a priority but will make sure everyone’s enquiry is dealt with.

“It is taking us longer than usual to deal with enquiries and we might not get it right it right first time every time, but this is a challenging and rapidly changing situation.

“We’d ask people to bear that in mind and please treat our staff with patience and respect. Remember, they are going through this difficult time too.”

City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “Our customer service staff provide a vital role in helping and advising people on a huge range of support and services.

“We understand that the coronavirus outbreak has left people fearful and anxious and our customer service staff recognise that. They are doing an excellent job in challenging, unprecedented circumstances and this needs to be recognised.

“In these difficult times, people can be assured that we are here to help. However, under no circumstances will we tolerate our staff being subjected to aggressive or offensive language and behaviour.”

People can access a range on the council’s services online at my.leicester.gov.uk

Full details of how to contact the city council are available at https://www.leicester.gov.uk/contact-us/phone-and-email-us

People experiencing financial crisis as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak can also email their contact details to C19support@leicester.gov.uk

A member of council staff will then call back between 9.30am and 4pm Monday to Friday and the application will be completed over the phone.

Anyone without access to the internet, can call the main customer service line for urgent enquiries on 0116 454 1000. Please be aware waiting times may be longer than normally expected.