Setting standards in call handling performance

Bedfordshire Police’s call handling centre (CHC) has been acknowledged as one of the best in the country in terms of performance and customer service after being announced as a finalist in the CCF European Contact Centre awards.

Aug 14, 2008
By Paul Jacques
Ravjeet Gupta

Bedfordshire Police’s call handling centre (CHC) has been acknowledged as one of the best in the country in terms of performance and customer service after being announced as a finalist in the CCF European Contact Centre awards.

Bedfordshire is the only force or emergency service to be nominated and follows an independent ‘benchmarking’ report into the performance of police call centres which found that 90 per cent of callers were satisfied with the way their call was handled by Bedfordshire Police, which was answered within 20 seconds.

This figure compares to 79 per cent for police forces generally, 81 per cent for UK organisations and 74 per cent for other public sector organisations.

Adam Gould, Bedfordshire’s CHC manager, said: “Such a high satisfaction level demonstrates the service we are giving to the people of Bedfordshire. We know there is a general dissatisfaction with contact centres but this proves ours bucks that trend. It seems that in comparison, Bedfordshire Police continues to shine.”

Over the last year, the CHC has introduced Typetalk for the hard of hearing community and a translating telephone service for people whose first language is not English. Another new service being considered is an SMS texting facility, allowing the public and the force to communicate by text message. This is initially going to be trialled with the hard of hearing community.

The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) oversaw the National Benchmarking Exercise 2008, in conjuntion with contact centre specialists Merchants, which involved the 43 police forces in England and Wales, British Transport Police (BTP) and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC) – 45 in total.

Tony McNulty MP, Minister of State for Security, Counter Terrorism, Crime and Policing, said: “How the police conduct and manage contact with the public is a key element of our citizen-focused approach to policing, which has customer service at its core. Public confidence in the police is key and I’m pleased to find the results of this survey show that the professionalism and quality of service from the police when handling calls from the public is as good as, or better than, other public and private sector organisations.”

Superintendent Peter Major, NPIA’s project leader on the Contact Management Programme, said: “As a national first, the survey clearly demonstrates that modern policing does take a public-focused approach and in key areas of contact management, it is considered world class.”

He added: “This benchmarking exercise allows the police service to confidently quantify and identify where performance has been good, allowing this to be shared between forces, and it also highlights where improvement is required. The survey forms a fundamental part of a review of police contact management for the 21st century.”

Key findings showed that:

•Police force contact centres are considered to be of a very high standard and are doing a very good job, eg, call handling for 999 is predictably good, but forces also do well in non-emergency calls.
•Police contact centres are extremely customer service and citizen focused, with excellent customer satisfaction, scoring results as high as 90 per cent.
•Many police forces achieved good first call resolution (FCR) rates – this is considered a good indicator of high customer service levels.
•Staff retention and length of service rates are generally much higher than average. This is partly because police contact centres appear to be highly skilled, rewarding and complex places to work.
•Ninety six per cent of forces ranked ‘improving service’ as one of their top three priorities, compared with 82 per cent in the public sector.

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