How Are You Cracking Down on Non-Emergency 999 Calls?

1st Jan, 2017
Read time: 2 minutes

There's a rat in your shower, a squirrel with rabies or you've missed the train – who are you going to call?

The police publish numerous articles urging the public to think carefully before dialling 999. Inappropriate calls tie up emergency lines, and at worst these calls put other people's lives at risk. Police contact centres reveal that despite this publicity, almost 50% of calls to 999 lines would be more appropriately handled as 101 non-emergency calls. However some Forces report that excessive waiting times on inbound lines, generate abandonment rates as high as 35% at peak times with an average of 20% across the day. This is obviously a growing concern.

Research conducted by the UK Government on single, non-emergency numbers highlights the difficult situation the police service encounters when trying to prioritise emergency and non-emergency calls. The report confirms that while the police service typically deal with 70 million calls annually across all numbers (999 and 101); approximately 49 million of these calls (up to 70%) are non-emergency calls which could be handled using an alternate non-emergency method.

How do police services ensure that all non-emergency calls are dealt with in a timely manner whilst keeping to tight resourcing budgets? As a key supplier to the UK Police Service, Netcall is strongly aware of the issues the police face and offers comprehensive communication solutions to improve efficiency, reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction.

Lengthy queue times for non-emergency numbers

Members of the public calling a non-emergency number will still expect their call to be answered within what they believe to be a reasonable period. If the waiting time is too long the individual may hang up and try again later, which leads to increased abandonment rates. Even worse, they may call the emergency 999 number in an effort to speak to an operator immediately.

Frustration for callers through lack of choice when reporting crimes

Waiting on hold can be very annoying and when stressed callers need to wait to report a crime; annoyance can turn to anger very quickly. Unfortunately, many Forces do not offer an alternative option for callers of non-emergency numbers, forcing them to either continue to hold or try again at another time.

Typically police budgets are significantly less than three years ago (cipfa.org) and police contact centres need to operate using efficient staffing. Meeting unexpected peaks in demand is expensive and diverts valuable resources from policing on the street. Using callback technology to manage call demand surges helps address high call waiting times, offers choice to callers and most importantly keeps available staff focused on providing effective emergency call response. Callback technology is already usefully deployed in UK Forces.

Targeted deployment of Callbacks

Offering a callback option during the busiest times helps to reduce call abandonment by up to 50%, according to previous Netcall experience. Callers are offered the option of a callback at a convenient time, allowing them to avoid wasting time on hold, and giving the contact centre an opportunity to call them back when demand has reduced.

Offering choice reduces the frustration felt by many callers

By offering a free callback as an alternative to waiting on hold,callers are able to make their own decision as to which option they choose. This will please the caller who is happy to be called back at a later time, whilst reducing the queue length for those who choose to wait for an operator.

Interestingly, the most common response to a callback is for the caller to respond with "thank you for calling me back"; a stark difference to the regular response operators often receive from a caller that has been waiting on hold!

In conclusion, the simple process of offering callbacks can have enormous benefits for both the public and the police service by efficiently easing the regularly occurring differences in demand throughout the day. Callbacks are an important tool to assist UK Police Forces as the demand for their services is likely to grow as budgets remain stagnant or are reduced further.

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