Access fears raised over move to appointment-only model for visits to North Northants Council offices
Face-to-face customer service points have been closed since the pandemic started
A plan to provide appointment-based customer services at all contact points has been discussed by a new panel at North Northamptonshire Council
The council’s executive advisory panel for service delivery, performance, customers met ‘virtually’ for the first time on Monday (June 28) to disuss customer services post-Covid.
During the pandemic many of its services were accessed online without the need to make contact.
All face-to-face customer service points have been closed during the pandemic and a continuation of the service model delivered in the past year is now proposed.
People would be seen through an appointment service and those without an appointment would be directed to a self-service terminal and encouraged to make one at a quieter time.
A report was delivered to the panel by Geoff Kent, the assistant director for customer services, and points raised will be presented to a future executive meeting.
Mr Kent said: “What we are proposing is that we actually move to an appointment-based service across all of our contact points.
“And of course, what we mustn’t forget that moving forward we have got our four primary municipal offices in our four sovereign districts and boroughs.
“We also provide a number of services in a number of libraries and we’re seeking to develop that moving forward and actually focus the service we provide in libraries along the same lines so that we can actually provide customers with face-to-face excellent customer service if they make an appointment.”
Cllr Jean Addison (Lab, Corby West) asked how residents would cope with an appointment system, what the problems were around opening one-stop shops and how some people may be affected if some offices if they no longer take cash.
Mr Kent said: “I think in terms of reopening the one-stop shops, when you look at supermarkets, they are very much back to normal, as it were, although I think to a degree, they have been very much open throughout.”
He went on to say: “We have had a year of appointments only, as it were, and we’ve been able to fine tune that.
“We have got a number of appointments available at our sites for customers to take up. What we’ve found that is most days our appointment slots haven’t all gone.”
Mr Kent went on to say: “Cllr Addison mentioned cash offices and the fact that lots of customers still do live in a cash only society and we’re very mindful of that and we do have cash offices in some locations and at the moment we are seeking to reopen them in line with all our other services.”
Cllr Richard Levell (Con, Raunds) made a point about those, particularly older, people who may just call in without an appointment.
Mr Kent replied: “If customers do come in and perhaps we’re not aware of it or have made a special trip into one of our towns and it’s been quite difficult for them to do that, then it’s not about saying you haven’t got an appointment, you can’t possibly see us, it’s about our staff being sensitive and considerate towards customers.”
He went on to say: “I would expect in that situation for our staff to say please take a seat, there may be a slight delay, please bear with us and we’ll make sure you see somebody.”