Contacting your council- paying for a service you can't talk to!
The phone menu problem is also local. When PleasePress1.com launched, one of the most surprising bits of feedback I received was that it's not just the big national and international companies that people are struggling to get hold of. The problem actually starts a lot closer to home, with many of you reporting that your Local Authorities are guilty of having long & complex Automated Phone Menus. That, and the fact that it can be very difficult to find a telephone number in the first place.
I want to be able to talk to someone. A review of several local authority websites reveals that there is an overwhelming sense of encouragement to do things online. Whether it be applying for planning permission, business licences, bulky waste collections, or even paying for things such as your council tax, parking permits & business rates. Many of these things are quite important, and it's only natural that you may expect to be able to speak to someone during the process, or if you have any queries. However, this is not as easy to do as the authorities would have you first believe. Generally, the first point of contact given is an automatic form, followed by an email address, then a postal address, and finally; if you look hard enough, sat at the bottom of the page (or indeed sometimes on a completely separate page!) will be a phone number. The message seems to be 'Please don't call us, we don't care!'
I appreciate that, like everyone, councils are trying to cut costs and automate things but I do believe that paying council tax fees should entitle the consumer to speak to a person when they need to. And part of that means not having to navigate endless automated telephone menus. There are some, (Well done Leeds city council) who provide an easy to find list of contact numbers for each department. For many others, sadly this is not the case. For example, a call to Tower Hamlets council tax line makes for a very perplexing experience indeed. Firstly, there is a full minute of recorded information before any options are offered. When you do eventually get to hear some, they don't run in the expected 1,2,3 sequence, but the more complex 0,1,9, format instead. Then follows more waffle, and a series of reminders that you can use their online services, and that extra charges will apply if bills are not paid on time. Finally, after 3 minutes of information, the traditional 1,2,3,4,5 options appear. Unsurprisingly, the option to speak to an advisor was at the end of the list.
What can you do about it? With experiences like this, no wonder we are a nation stressed with phone menus. Is your Local Authority any better? Let us know. I do not have many local authorities on the site yet but would like to add them. Would you like your local authority to put their phone numbers and menus on Please Press 1? If so, please add via a Fb comment below or please contact us and hopefully the councils will listen to their residents and customers.
What can councils do to improve? Well how about providing their phone numbers and phone menus on PleasePress1? This not only helps their customers but they can provide extra information which their customers can see without even needing to call! They can also provide links to the equivalent on line service to make it easy and encourage the use of their on-line services.And they can do it for FREE! If you are a Council and would like to discuss the use of this service to help your customers please Contact Us