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Slough Borough Council

Slough Borough Council's transformational customer services programme and state of the art service centre has received a 91% satisfaction rating thanks to its Assistant Director of Customer Services and Project Manger, found within just weeks through fast track recruitment agency Executives Online.

Slough Borough Council (SBC) received a three-star (‘good’) rating from the Audit Commission. However, an on-going evaluation of citizen’s experience of contacting the council had shown significant levels of dissatisfaction with the service received.

SBC had been working to develop its approach to E-Government and change the way it engaged with citizens and recognised the need to develop a new Customer Service Centre (CSC) to create excellent customer service and at the same time, realise productivity gains and efficiency savings.

Work was due to commence in June 2004, but after a change in administration the programme was paused until 2005. It was restarted in April 2005, when lost time needed to be recovered without compromising on the quality of the project leader, as Assistant Chief Executive, Liz Terry explains:

"We need to bring in an exceptional individual with customer services experience and a strong project management approach. There were two distinct requirements to the assignment: project management and implementation of the new CSC and subsequent leadership as Assistant Director of Customer Services. The first phase was to deliver our state of the art service centre, co-locating our front of house advisors with the call centre staff. This represented a significant change in working practices using the latest technologies, and for the most part way beyond the experience and operational expertise within the council. We needed help!

"The challenge was to find someone experienced in setting up, in particularly, the call handling element of the service centre, but who also understood local government. Local Government is now into service centres in a big way and the talent pool will no doubt grow in the years to come, but last year I knew it would be difficult, especially as we couldn't afford to spend months finding the right person."

SBC contacted Executives Online, which operates a talent bank of thousands of active executive job-seekers and interim managers. Within just weeks the agency had found "Prit A":/practice-areas/disciplines/call-centre/Meet_CCM/Prit who had developed a track record of significantly improving the efficiency and quality of customer service and contact centre operations.

"He made something complex seem quite easy and ensured that the Council got the right tools for the job"

Named a Call Centre Executive of the Year at the Telebusiness Awards for Excellence and a recent finalist in the Utility Industry Achievement Awards for Communications Centre Excellence, his background encompassed work for businesses such as Prudential Assurance and Anglian Water. He had had brought his wealth of experience to the London Borough of Newham before coming to Slough, which meant he had a depth of knowledge of local government as well as of commercial centres.

At SBC he was charged with implementing the customer services programme, including acting as the council’s key project manager, providing senior focus for the CSC across the council, working with council directorate stakeholders to contribute to corporate working to achieve best value, providing governance and working in cooperation with the council’s strategic partner, Unisys, and consolidation of call handling into the CSC. In addition, the assignment covered various process, organisational and IT elements, such as recruitment of management, specification and selection of IT requirements and implementing customer excellence values.

The CSC was successfully launched to plan in October 2005, comprising a 100+ seat contact centre, One Stop Shop (OSS) for walk-in traffic, on-line self-service areas and Local Access Points in the borough.

"Prit A":/practice_areas/disciplines/call_centre/Meet_CCM/Prit proved an excellent leader and performance has been outstanding.

The OSS wait times have been reduced from 45 minutes to 15 minutes, 91% of visitors satisfied or very satisfied with the service received and 95% of calls are answered within 30 seconds.

"He made something complex seem quite easy and ensured that the Council got the right tools for the job," comments Liz Terry. "He brought over some of our reluctant staff and made them feel good by being successful and has helped recruit some really excellent people to take forward the centre and the wider customers services programme."

Paul Butler, E-Government Programme Manager, concurs:

"Prit's role was decisive in turning our vision for a customer service centre into reality, bringing in elements of the design that would otherwise have been missed. The outstanding performance achieved since opening is due primarily to Prit's focus on those areas of the business that determine success or failure."