22 July 2021

Customer service centre

Clare Williams, a GEC member from the Swansea Office, provides a summary of the ongoing CSC discussions.

Since the inception of the customer service centre (CSC), PCS and management have recognised the importance of the service being provided by casework trained staff with the same terms and conditions as the rest of the workforce. This included the rotation of staff in and out of operational teams, ensuring the vast experience of caseworkers is made available to callers, engendering the professionalism and confidence to deliver a first-class service to our customers. Full details are enshrined in the CSC Agreement, revised in January 2020.

The two attempts to privatise HMLR in 2014 and 2016 highlighted to PCS the need to ensure CSC is not outsourced and remains central to the organisation’s core activity and competency and remains at two virtual sites. This was echoed in a consultant’s report, commissioned by the executive board, which set out a two-year transformation programme for CSC, ensuring staffing and skill levels were in place, and recognising that it is the quality of teamwork between CSC and case workers that drives HMLR’s service effectiveness in the customers’ experience.

Unfortunately, the light at the end of the tunnel for addressing staff shortages leading to under-performance, identified in the report, has not as yet been realised. Attrition rates, the pandemic and the need to onboard and remotely train so many new staff have contributed to a delay in realising the aims of the programme. Following representations by PCS, these concerns were escalated to the executive board which have approved bringing forward recruitment plans; however full complement is still not possible until 2022.

PCS recognises that the current staff shortages in CSC are making working conditions challenging and meet with senior CSC management and HR regularly to work together to try to mitigate these.

PCS instigated a joint PCS/CSC management survey that attracted a response rate of 73% with 540 comments and revealed key concerns:

  • Lack of time for training consolidation and time to process casework
  • Lack of flexibility for call handlers
  • Approval of leave.

PCS reps are currently working on the leave and scheduling workstreams and continue to work closely with CSC management in all areas to minimise the impact on staff and address the concerns identified in the survey until this improves by CSC being at full complement.