Why DOES it take so long to get an answer on the phone from Bedford Borough Council?

News
News

Thousands of frustrated residents are hanging up in frustration after trying in vain to telephone the council.

The T&C can reveal a staggering 15,288 calls to the borough switchboard were classed as “abandoned” last year.

This means 10 per cent of callers to the authority were kept waiting so long that they ended the call before they could reach the department they wanted.

During one week alone in April, 992 calls were abandoned – an average of more than one every three minutes.

Throughout the year, the average time to answer a call was 2.5 minutes.

The statistics prompted councillors themselves to raise concerns about the amount of time callers were left hanging on.

Surprisingly, officers blamed part of the problem on the growing number of 
people who choose to email the council instead of picking up the phone.

They said the digital deluge placed a “higher than anticipated demand on staff resources”, meaning phone calls took longer to answer and more calls were abandoned.

But the officers admitted the telephone situation was unsatisfactory and recently introduced a number of improvements.

These include putting more staff on the switchboard at peak periods, as well as proactive monitoring of call waiting times.

Last month the abandoned call figure dropped to 205, which was four per cent of all calls.

The council has handled a total of 317,503 calls over the past year.

A council spokesman told the T&C this week: “After a short period of higher than normal levels of abandoned calls we worked to improve the system.

“We have seen a positive impact, with abandoned call rates back at low levels.”

The spokesman said that 98 per cent of callers who responded to the customer satisfaction survey in 2016/17 reporting that they were satisfied with the service they received. But some members of the public are still not happy.

“I dread having to phone the council these days. It seems to take forever for the phone to be answered,” said one resident.

She added:“It was much better a few years ago when you could pop into the Town Hall and get your problem sorted.”

“I’m sure the move to Borough Hall - a good 15 minute walk out of town- means more and more people are forced to contact the council by phone.”