Out of hours call handling is an essential, but can be a costly service.

Michelle Bernard - Commercial ManagerEaling Council

Capita Local Public Services is the newly approved contract supplier to deliver out of hours call handling services to Ealing Council along with six other large London based partners. The contract will see Capita’s Dearne Valley based out of hours contact centre handling round-the-clock call queries, providing resolutions and offering support and guidance to some of the most vulnerable customers on behalf of the participating authorities.

Sharing services across several public sector organisations offers substantial savings, delivers a more effective service and provides resilience, especially in crisis scenarios. By foregoing the need to have separate call handling functions in each participating organisation, the service is estimated to reduce costs to around one third of the in-house handling level.

This speedy call answering service is available during evenings, weekends and public holidays, with options to extend the hours of operation beyond this at very short notice.

The customer service agents have many years of experience in handling a range of out of hours calls and, coupled with an effective triage approach, they can resolve high volumes of calls efficiently, reducing Emergency Duty Officer call outs.

The out of hours service is supported by a tailored management system which records the resolution and follow on actions to enable seamless transfer and visibility for handover to daytime services.

The service has developed individual scripts that fulfil the requirements of each of the partners, which are continuously being refined, that allows the majority of common calls to be resolved at first point of contact and ensures each caller receives an excellent and consistent service, no matter who they speak to.

Michelle Bernard, Commercial Manager at Ealing, has found the scripting system crucial to delivering an effective service. 

"If the scripts and flow charts are correct and up to date, then there's no room for error," she says. "We're not compromising on our service – if anything, we've improved it. We continuously monitor the service – all the calls are recorded; the call abandonment rate is extremely low with no complaints about the service."

Ms Bernard estimates that Ealing has saved around £100,000 per year through sharing services with other public sector providers. She goes on to say that working collaboratively with other councils has not only helped cut costs but has helped improve service delivery.

"Relationship-building within the partnership has proven to be beneficial.  We benefit from our back offices learning and adopting new ways to deliver services as we share best practice and fully engage in collaborative working – sharing a font of years of experience and knowledge with one another. It's been very productive in every aspect."

Capita has an extensive history of partnering with local government with a current capability of handling over 220,000 out of hours calls per year. This Partnership Framework builds upon the best of Capita’s call centre capabilities and leverages its extensive experience working with local authorities’ customers. The contract can be accessed by any other government institution and non-governmental institutions such as housing associations, within the UK.

Ms Bernard is keen to encourage more organisations to consider the benefits that this framework offers.  By working together, we can generate even more savings, as the higher the call volumes, the greater the scope for reducing contract charges which is good news for everyone.


About the author

Michelle Bernard - Commercial Manager, Ealing Council Michelle Bernard is a Commercial Manager & Out of Hours Partnership Lead Officer.  Based in Ealing, Michelle has worked in Local Government for nearly 30 years over a wide range of service areas including legal, finance, education, as well as Customer Contact & transformation. Michelle has extensive management experience identifying forward thinking and initiating new work solutions with a variety of back office service areas, with both internal and external partners.

Michelle Bernard - Commercial Manager, Ealing Council

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