Thursday, 20 December 2012

Capita Week - Day 4 - Why people are sometimes better than technology

Although by no means a regular Daily Mail  reader, I recently saw an interesting story about a new telephone system installed by Capita at Birmingham City Council. This automated voice recognition system cost £11 million and replaced 55 staff who were made redundant. However the problem is that the system doesn't recognise the local accent. this didn't just affect residents, Councillors also had problems getting through.  City councillor Mike Leddy said he spent a full half-hour grappling with the voice recognition system before giving up and the strategic director to sort it out. It is great that he has access to such senior staff; I suspect the humble resident does not have the luxury of that option.

This might sound like one of those funny light hearted stories favoured by the tabloids but this has a very serious side. Under the new NSCSO, contract customer services will be transferred to Darwen (in Lancashire not Australia). It is not clear whether Capita will introduce this style of technology to field the initial calls but given the reduction in numbers of staff it is something that I suspect may be used. In addition, any real people who may be answering the calls will be local to Darwen and will have no local knowledge of Barnet  or the context of what people are asking about. Sometimes it is much quicker and easier to speak to someone you can understand and has local knowledge than battle your way through an automated system or deal with a person in a remote call centre who knows nothing about Barnet.

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