Chapter 4: Process
23. There are many published standards relating to the set up of and managing a contact centre including:
- National Occupational Standards for Government Contact Centres
- Scottish Government Good Practice Guidelines for the Establishment of Contact Centres
- Central Office of Information 'Better Practice Guidance for Government Contact Centres (Third Edition)'
- British Standard Customer Service Code of Practice
24. These publications provide advice and guidance on various factors that should help deliver a good service, for example, day to day management, forecasting, methods of calculating performance, etc.
25. IPS was advised that standards were looked at in the early stages of setting up the Enquiry Point. It was acknowledged by managers that it may now be a good time to have another look at standards as the Enquiry Point moves to the new Customer Care Unit.
It is recommended that good practice standards for Government Contact Centres are looked at with a view to incorporating those that would be useful/beneficial to the COPFS Enquiry Point especially now that the Enquiry Point will become part of the newly established Customer Care Unit.
26. The Enquiry Point use BT-inet software and Cisco telephone and transfer system and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). Each member of staff has access to three screens6, one to utilise COPFS IT systems (FOS, SOSR, PROMIS and the intranet) which should provide a full electronic record of cases, another to record enquiries onto the Enquiry Point database and another to view contact lists.
27. The Enquiry Point number is a fixed rate non-geographic number (0844 number) so calls from any location are charged to the caller at a set cost per minute. Similarly mobile calls should be made to a 01 number. The Enquiry Point does not make use of Intelligent Number Recognition (calls directed by pressing the keypad) or Intelligent Voice Recognition (calls directed according to your response).
28. The Enquiry Point telephone number can be found on the first page of the COPFS website under general enquiries. It advises of 2 numbers to choose from, one from a landline (0844 number) and another from a mobile (01 number) as it is acknowledged that dialling a 0844 number from a mobile phone can be costly depending on the provider. The numbers are also generally available on literature/booklets and on standard letters. We noted, however, that some standard letters did not detail the telephone number to be called from a mobile (reference is made later in the report to comments concerning the high costs of calling from a mobile). Numbers on letters can be changed by COPFS staff to their own direct dial number if so wished.
It is recommended that all standard letters include the Enquiry Point telephone number to call from mobile phones.
29. The system provides an introductory greeting which advises of opening hours, numbers to call for fine enquiries, advice relating to witness citations, an assurance that all calls with be dealt with respectfully and a notification that all calls are recorded for audit, quality and training purposes. We refer to this later in Chapters 10 and 11 - 'Partners' and 'Customer Satisfaction'.
30. Inbound calls are automatically routed to waiting operators by an automatic call distribution system. Depending on input of the type of call on the database scripts pop up onto the computer screen as aid in dealing with calls. Operators can search PROMIS, etc.for information such as court date, bail conditions, witness attendance dates, dates of offence, etc.
31. Staff at the Enquiry Point advise that they are confident in using the telephony system, however, they indicated that delays in performance can occur as a result of staff shortages and COPFS systems crashing or performing slowly had been apparent at the time of inspection. They also made mention of case progress not being updated on the COPFS systems due to backlogs in offices and confusion as a result of different procedures/practices within offices. Such issues impact on the ability to obtain and provide accurate information in a timely and efficient manner. Staffing issues are covered in Chapter 5 and recent issues with the COPFS IT systems are being looked into. Performance results are shown at Chapter 9.
32. There are no time limits to calls and all calls since the launch of the Enquiry Point have been recorded and can be transcribed if necessary. Recorded calls are used in training.
33. Standard forms are used by the Enquiry Point to help with service delivery. Offices are required to complete these forms and pass to the Enquiry Point so to give them up to date information, for example, contact lists and office closure, however, these forms may not always be up to date (see below).
34. Advice on types of data that should be collected to aid monitoring of contact centres can be found in the Central Office of Information publication 'Better Practice Guidance for Government Contact Centres' (see Appendix 1).
35. The Enquiry Point has created its own database to record type of caller, reason for call and whether it has been transferred or dealt with.
36. IPS reviewed all calls during a 6 month period (1 May 2012 to 30 November 2012) to identify how they were broken down. This review showed a wide categorisation of calls some of which are then filtered again for further monitoring. Results of this review are found at Chapter 9 and Appendices 2 and 3.
37. We were advised that the Enquiry Point is still evolving and that further categories of caller or reason for call can be added to the database as need is identified.
38. The Data Protection Act 1998 came into force on 1 March 2000. The 8 principles of the Act are to ensure that data should be:
- Fairly and lawfully processed
- Processed for limited purposes
- Adequate, relevant and not excessive
- Accurate and up to date
- Not kept longer than is necessary
- Processed in line with the individual's rights
- Not transferred to other countries without adequate protection
39. In terms of protecting data that COPFS already holds, staff have scripts which advise them on what can and cannot be intimated although we were advised that some scripts are out of date as described below. Staff are also trained to advise callers to contact their own solicitors if they are looking for legal advice, for example, a person asks if they need to disclose previous convictions.
40. Where calls are recorded for audit or coaching it is obligatory to tell callers. This can be done on the call, in leaflets or on advertising. The Enquiry Point advises callers in the opening introduction that all calls are recorded for audit and training purposes.
41. The COI provide a checklist to help ensure compliance with the main requirements of the Act and can be found in Appendix 4.
Freedom of Information Requests
42. Under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 Scottish public authorities should allow access to all types of recorded information subject to certain conditions and exemptions. The Act also requires every public authority to have a publication scheme, approved by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) and to publish information covered by this scheme. Information about the COPFS publication scheme can be found on its website and information is proactively published in this regard.
43. Freedom of information requests are recorded on the COPFS Respond system7. Given that the Enquiry Point is the first point of contact calls relating to Freedom of Information requests are likely to be received by them. In this instance the caller is advised to put the request in writing and they are given the address or email details of the office concerned where the request will be considered.
44. It seems sensible to ask for Freedom of Information requests to be put in writing as there needs to be a formal system to record such. We understand that under the new Customer Care Unit there will be a division dealing with Freedom of Information.
45. Enquiry Point operators indicated that on occasion it can be difficult to transfer callers to COPFS offices as sometimes no-one answers. They have access to office contact lists and once they have identified who to call they dial the extension, if no-one answers they try the 'hunt group' extension which rings through numbers to nominated persons. We were informed that contact lists are not always up to date and this causes delays in identifying who to transfer calls to. There have been many changes in COPFS structure especially since the introduction of the new Federations and specialised units therefore names on contact lists do change a lot.
46. If the Enquiry Point is unable to transfer a call to a member of staff they can either put the caller through to leave a message or they may take details and send an email requesting a member of COPFS staff to return the call.
47. Feedback received from COPFS staff indicated that on occasion calls are transferred 'without any introduction' from Enquiry Point staff which can irritate callers as they have to repeat the reason for call. Other feedback indicated that information passed on can be 'vague' and sometimes 'incorrect' while others indicated that 'accurate' information is provided. In the main feedback showed that a 'good job' is done with quite a number of respondents indicating that operators are 'polite', 'pleasant' and 'friendly' and the service provided is 'professional' and has had a 'significant impact on the functioning of offices'.
48. A frequent issue identified in feedback from COPFS staff was that calls can be transferred to the wrong team/person however as indicated above there is acknowledgement that staff move around a lot and there have been structural changes as a result of the new federations causing difficulty in keeping contact lists up to date.
50. We were advised that there is a system called 'Presence' which would allow Enquiry Point operators to identify staff within COPFS who are logged on to their computer and therefore possibly sitting at their desk. This is something that is currently being looked at and would perhaps help with this issue.
It is recommended that a reminder is issued to Procurator Fiscal offices to ensure that their contact lists are kept up to date.
51. Enquiry Point staff indicated that some calls can be wearing particularly those where the caller is abusive, for example, being shouted at or being told they are incompetent.
52. Staff advised that they are trained to remain calm, friendly and professional and in such instances warnings will be given to the caller that the call will be terminated. Staff support each other when this happens.
53. When Enquiry Point operators enter 'reason for call' into their database a script automatically pops up. This highlights practice relating to what information can be given and type of information that should not be intimated.
54. Staff we spoke to advised that some scripts are out of date and require to be updated.
It is recommended that scripts used in the Enquiry Point are reviewed and updated where there has been a change in practice.
Involvement in new concepts/process reviews
55. The Enquiry Point is used as a tool by COPFS management to test new concepts or as an aid in process reviews. For example they were involved in an Argyll and Clyde project called 'Excusals Online' where calls relating to witness excusals were passed on to a legal member of staff located at the Enquiry Point. This project ran for just over a year and statistics showed that 2046 requests were dealt with in year 2011. This project was deemed a success but it was found to be difficult to resource as a member of staff had to be taken from the Dumbarton office and so was abandoned. Calls are now transferred to the relevant office as appropriate.
56. In another example, as part of the customer satisfaction survey conducted during 2012, Enquiry Point operators asked questions and collated results relating to use of the COPFS website. Questions asked included whether callers had used the website, if they found what they were looking for and what would they like to see. Results were collated by Enquiry Point management and sent to the Project Board dealing with that particular project.
57. Other projects where the Enquiry Point has been involved include:
- Edinburgh Text Pilot
- Access to Witness Statements
- Witness Information Initiative
- Pleas Hotline
- Criminal Justice Secure Mail
58. As a result of testing the Enquiry Point is now the first point of contact for all Secure Disclosure Website and Criminal Justice Secure Mail enquiries.
59. Like all organisations testing of projects is important to determine whether there will be a positive outcome but it is inevitable that some will be a success and some will not for one reason or another as shown in the above 'Excusals Online' where it was found difficult to resource in the current economic climate.
60. We have found the Enquiry Point to be proactive and willing to get involved in new projects. There is an awareness in the unit that such involvement will help improve services. It is acknowledged that the Enquiry Point does look for ways to increase service provision, an example being services of a dedicated Victim Information and Advice (VIA) member of staff to deal with provision of information to victims, witnesses and bereaved nearest relatives that the Enquiry Point staff are unable to deal with (see Chapter 5 - 'Staffing').