Why have we invested in a contact centre?

On Monday, we were pleased to take the first call into the new Citizens Advice Stockport (CAS) contact centre, something that marks a substantial shift in the organisations thinking.

Traditionally, CAS has been focused on the delivery of advice via face-to-face methods and in the past had three key face-to-face services; Fred Perry House in Stockport, Cheadle Library and Hollins House in Marple.

In December 2017 we started to implement a new service delivery structure which saw us change the services to a more outreach focused structure, supporting residents across the Borough of Stockport with services disseminating from our main ‘flag ship’ service in Fred Perry House — and whilst there was a little opposition both internally and externally to this change, in the main people were generally supportive of this move.

One of the key reasons this move was supported was because it allows the organisation to get out into the communities across Stockport that need our help and support. Alongside this, working with the Libraries team, our outreach service will be complimented by an assisted digital service, supporting residents to take advantage of the digital services available to them.

Underpinning all the face-to-face services will be a telephone service which is reliable and responsive to the needs of Stockport residents. This is a fundamental shift in thinking as traditionally, CAS has focused its resources on face-to-face delivery, inadvertently resulting in residents who wish to access our telephone service being unable to.

Quote from a paid member of staff back in 2017.

Far too many times, we have taken the resources allocated to the phones and diverted them onto the face-to-face drop-in service, but have never really thought about the queue on the telephone — what about the people waiting on the phone?

As part of the organisational restructure and service delivery review and with support from Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council, we have been able to open a dedicated multi-channel contact centre and invest more resources into answering the telephone.

Supported by both volunteers and paid staff, the contact centre will answer telephone calls, emails and eventually, web-chats.

The Citizens Advice service has traditionally been seen as a face-to-face advice service but this is changing because the demands of our clients are changing. It is only right that we change to meet the needs of our clients.