April 29th, 2008

Pile ‘em high

Posted in The Job - General by 200

When I give out a job on the  radio, I give as much information as I have so that the unit attending is as fully briefed as to what they will be dealing with as possible. I can still remember being on the receiving end of such calls.

I don’t keep secrets. If the information the officer wants is available to me, I’ll pass it, usually without prompting. I’ll often say something along the lines of "that’s all the information we have." (Which doesn’t stop people asking for a description or direction of travel or more information).

Quite often the information is known to the person calling in but the call-taker doesn’t ask for it. I’ll often ring the caller back myself on the grounds of ‘if you want a job doing properly, do it yourself’. I’ll then find out the information which is actually useful to us (such as descriptions of offenders, where they are now, which way they went, details of vehicles involved, current location of the informant, etc, etc et-bloody-cetera).

One of the biggest problems we have in the operations centre is an ‘us & them’ attitude between the controllers & the call-takers. We should be working as a team to provide the best service, both to the people who call & to the officers on the street. Instead we have controllers slagging off call-takers for failing to obtain useful information and call-takers slagging off controllers for making snotty remarks on logs about how useless the call-takers are.

Unfortunately, we seem to be adopting the Walmart Strategy of piling it high & selling it cheap with some of the call-takers. We are getting lots of new employees (there is a reasonably high turnover – I wonder why) so we have lots of inexperienced staff. They are not being trained properly & nobody is interested in improving the situation (except people like me who aren’t allowed to affect policy), so the crap logs they create just keep on coming. This goes on for so long that the main offenders are now training the newer staff. There is no way on this planet that someone who hasn’t really ever been shown how to make a great log & take all the necessary information can train someone else to do it. Within a couple of years we’ll have a workforce where nobody knows how to do their job properly.

One of our serial offenders on crap log creation has just been promoted to supervisor level down the call centre.

We’ve suggested that they ought to get the call-takers to come & sit with the controllers on the radio channels so that they can see what happens when detailed information is left off the log & also why we need what information. They can see, first-hand, the problems caused when correct information isn’t taken at the first opportunity. We’ve also offered to go & sit with them in the call centre to advise & guide while they are taking calls & creating logs.

The problem is that in order to do either of those things you need to release staff from their position. There isn’t enough radio staff to enable anyone to be missing from their desk, so that’s out the window – we don’t have enough staff to fill all the positions as it is. The telephone lines don’t answer themselves & there are stats to be targeted on what percentage of calls are answered within so many seconds.

As long as the chief can report that we’re meeting our call-taking targets, nobody gives a rat’s arse about the quality.


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  1. Emma says:

    200, I am afraid it’s a tale throughout the land because of the high turnover of staff in call centres in general.

    It makes me laugh because when they have their exit interviews I wonder how many of them say they don’t feel they had the necessary training to do the job.

    I personally feel we are going backwards because the whole world in now so target driven and you have to hit them at all costs.

    It’s a good job there is still the likes of you and me out there who can still use a bit of common sense and initiative when dealing with things..xx

    April 29th, 2008 at 20:04

  2. Control Room Op says:

    Where I work you rotate between radio positions & taking 999 and other calls deemed urgent by switchboard. This does mean that most operators know what is required.
    We also have a ‘Contact Management centre’. It used to be able to manage contacts. This is no longer allowed.
    Any call they take must be passed on as quickly as possible. They are not permitted to do anything but the most basic checks. This enables the call taker to take another call so helping to meet government criteria on call handling.
    It also means that the customer is almost inevitably called back by either control room or area (depending where the job was sent) for more info. Quite often the job is dealt with by phone. the customer quite often feels this could have been done at the time and so feel let down by the Police.
    This is called improvement.
    The older staff don’t like this. They want to deal with the job and help the caller. They are leaving or nearing retirement. The newer recruits don’t know any different.
    Figures are published to show how performance has improved so everyone else must be wrong

    April 30th, 2008 at 08:23

  3. Fed up says:

    We used to be the same as control room op but smt decided to split the roles. 200 are you in my force??!! Everything you have put in this post mirrors exactly what we are going through! Nightmare…
    break in progress – no desc, no details of any veh’s involved, informant not kept on the line. No locations checked to make sure they are on the force area, no full names or ages obtained for domestics.. I could go on and on and on. Happy Days.Keep posting! x

    April 30th, 2008 at 08:58

  4. Civ_In_The_City says:

    I think it comes from a form of desperation. Someone decides your force isn`t dealing with enough calls, or dealing quickly enough with the calls it does, or dealing well enough with those calls.

    That someone then accuses your force of not ‘managing it`s resources properly’ (code for: ‘we will cut your budget if you do not produce a silk purse from a sows ear and make the government look less bad’).

    ‘Not managing resources properly’ is another way of saying ‘wasting money’. Wasting money is the biggest corporate ‘crime’ a police force can commit these days but is socially acceptable when compared with racism or (whisper it quietly) ‘causing offence’.

    Faced with this most heinous epitaph every Chief Constable then ‘radically overhauls’ it`s call-handling procedures by 1) Putting a time-limit on every call before it has to be off-loaded (aka ‘escalated’, ‘noted’, ‘recorded’, whatever, just get ‘em off the phone). 2) Writing a standard script and list of questions that have to be asked of every caller regardless of what they are calling about. 3) Not paying staff for fag breaks to encourage staff to remain at their desks. etc etc.

    Customers ‘needs’ are sacrificed to the point that ‘handling the call’ is basically just answering the phone to get the stat and move on.

    There has to be a revolution against this approach to everything, contantly removing all common sense and discretion because you can`t afford to train people to do things properly. Every aspect of the police service is being lobotomised.

    One day soon a police officer will be a grinning plastic automaton that just keeps repeating “How can I help you, I`m here to serve”, but never actually does anything.

    Oh no, sorry, that`s politicians isn`t it.

    April 30th, 2008 at 18:38

  5. Barney Macfarlane says:

    I was fortunate the other day to have the person who is in charge of our call center out on patrol with me. The reason was primarily to see the extent of the area I cover, (rural) and the times/distances involved in attending calls. As luck would have it I received a call to attend suspect persons who had just driven off from a remote house. No direction of travel was given and the controller could not able to supply any when asked, ( the reporter could not be recontacted on her mobile phone). This resulted in an area being searched un-necessarily and the persons getting away. When the tape of the original call was listened to the reporter was not asked what direction they had left in by the call taker. A later call revealed that the reporter could have supplied this if she had been asked to.
    This is now going to be highlighted in the basic training of call-takers so hopefully the problem will be eradicated. Perhaps all forces should adopt the ride-along policy for their Call Center Managers.

    May 3rd, 2008 at 15:18

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