Council Contact Centre staff take the professional approach

PRESSURE on Scottish Borders Council’s Contact Centre staff to handle a greater range of issues brought to them by members of the public has increased, but help is on hand.

Eighteen customer services employees have started a specialised customer service professional qualification course and other employees are likely to follow them.

The programme is the only online professional qualification certificated by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) in Scottish local government and it aims to transform customer service and develop a more skilled workforce now and for the future.

Councillor Michael Cook, SBC’s executive member for corporate improvement and chair of COSLA Strategic HR Management Group said: “I have been supporting this qualification from the very initial stages of its development and I am delighted the time is now right for it to be introduced to Scottish Borders Council.

“The demand for professionalism within Scottish local government has never been higher. These new, nationally recognised qualifications raise the bar for local government in Scotland and provide a real career path for customer service professionals.”

This is the first time the qualification has been offered to customer services staff at SBC and it is hoped the course will eventually be offered to all council staff who deal with the public.

The qualification is provided online and is made up of eight modules divided into three units over a 12 month period - local government customer communication; excellence in local government customer service; and understanding relationships, responsibilities and conflict management in local government customer service.

There are two levels - Award (SVQ level 5, equivalent to Intermediate 2) and Certificate (SVQ level 6, Higher level) and successful candidates complete eight modules at over 70% .

Jenni Craig, SBC’s head of customer services said: “We are totally committed to providing the opportunity for our staff to be recognised as professionals in the field of customer services.

“This will not only help develop our workforce to become more confident when dealing with customers, but it will also help us meet customers needs more efficiently and help us meet our target of achieving resolution at first point of contact.

“We need to think and act more creatively about how we can influence new skills for the future and I think this professional qualification will help us achieve this.”

Brian Hancock, customer service adviser at Galashiels Contact Centre is one of the members of staff taking part in the qualification. He said: “This is a great opportunity to achieve a nationally recognised qualification in customer services.

“I am really looking forward to learning more about how we can improve the service we provide to customers on a day-to-day basis. After all, customer services is at the heart of all council business and we are at the forefront of the interface with customers.”