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Call centre logging 800 reports a day on city council homes repairs line

Posted on Sep 08 2010
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Stoke-on-Trent City Council staff normally deal with around 500 calls a day from tenants asking about housing repairs. But hundreds more people are calling in every day since the council moved eight of its call centre staff to a new base at Kier Stoke's headquarters.
 
Now, three more workers are being moved to the new call centre to help cope with the increased demand. The calls increase comes after private consultant Vanguard Consulting was brought in to improve services at Kier Stoke, the council's housing repair arm.
 
Experts have hit out at the way calls are handled and passed on to repair teams after finding there were 290 stages between the call being answered and the work being completed – with just four helping the customer get their home fixed. Kier Stoke looks after 19,000 council houses and dozens of other buildings in the city. But the call centre plan is only focusing on the central area of the city, which contains about 6,000 council properties.
 
Councillor Brian Ward, cabinet member for housing, planning and transportation, said: "The trial is generating significant numbers of calls from tenants and the challenge is to direct the manpower to carry out repairs at a convenient time to the customer. "Some tenants may be having to wait for their call to be answered and we ask residents to bear with us while the changes bed in. Extra staff will be used to handle calls to ensure that tenants are receiving the best possible service."
 
The council is considering taking on more call centre staff, who would be based at Kier Stoke's Cromer Road headquarters. Kier Stoke operations director Jane Spellacy said: "Our electricians, plumbers, carpenters and other staff are all exceedingly busy making this work and improving services to tenants.
 
"We do not want tenants to be put off if they have to wait longer than we would like for their queries to be answered. "We will respond to each request and issues will be resolved."
 
During the trial, calls from tenants in the 6,000 homes are answered at Kier Stoke's headquarters. Calls from tenants elsewhere in the city are being handled as normal by Stoke-on-Call in Fenton. The trial will affect people in Abbey Green, Bentilee and Townsend, Berryhill and Hanley East, Fenton, Hanley West and Shelton, Hartshill and Penkhull, Northwood and Birches Head, and Stoke and Trent Vale. The central area has been chosen because of the number of large housing estates.
 
It is hoped the service improvements will be rolled out across the city at a later date. Antony Colley, of Water Street, Stoke, has benefited from the new system after reporting a hole in his kitchen ceiling. The 36-year-old said: "We had been waiting months for the ceiling to be repaired.
 
"But with the new system we were visited by a plasterer who filled in the ceiling, a plumber who repaired the flushing mechanism on the toilet, and a joiner replaced the bathroom door. I can't fault the service." But 49-year-old tenant David Seadon, pictured with his wife Kelly, has been waiting months for kitchen and bathroom repairs and a year for a new front door.
 
Mr Seadon, of Brookhouse Road, Meir, said: "Its customer service is ridiculous, to keep people waiting for months like this. "They should help good tenants who pay their rent on time
 
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