Devon and Cornwall Police are testing a new interactive voice response service for 101 non-emergency calls. It is hoped the system will weed out a ‘significant number’ of calls from people merely seeking information.
Police say the system will make it easier for callers to reach the person or department who is best placed to resolve their enquiry. It is being introduced to provide a better quality service for users, help improve call waiting times and reduce demand on the force contact centre.
Anyone calling 101 can still speak to a call handler – it is only how you get to speak to the call handler that has changed.
The options people will hear have been selected after a consultation and insight sessions with members of the public. Members of the community, including hard-to reach groups, have helped inform the design of the new service. The force says, this was to ensure it is as user-friendly as possible and that it provides the best possible service to communities.
A force spokesperson said in a statement: “Many forces across the country have already introduced a similar system and it has been effectively adopted by their communities. The system being implemented by Devon and Cornwall Police has been tested robustly to ensure it is fit for purpose.
“As a force we also offer a range of online methods to contact us including WebChat, Report Crime Online and Email 101 and these are easy to use and can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week meaning that the public can contact the police when it is convenient to them, without having to wait on the phone.
“Over the forthcoming months the force will continue to monitor the effectiveness of the new system and will be work with a range of communities to create support materials to help individuals feel confident in using it.”
Around a quarter of calls to the police are for information only and not police-related matters – reports of lost property, fly tipping, stray dogs, noisy neighbours or inconsiderately parked vehicles. Police say, the new service will provide information for some of these calls and direct them to other agencies or online services who can help.
Devon and Cornwall Police Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer said: “The calls into the 101 non-emergency service are dealt with by professional colleagues. Ultimately, if you need to speak to someone then through the new service this will still occur.
“A significant number of our calls are routine requests for information that this new service seeks to address, enabling our operators more time to speak with those members of the public who do need to speak to a member of the force. This investment in a new system aligns with that in other public services and the private sector in providing self-service choices that are often quicker in resolving non-emergency routine requests.”
Alison Hernandez, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said: “Improving the force’s 101 service has been a priority of mine since I took office. We have opened up new channels of communication through online reporting and WebChat which are getting used more and more.
“However, we also want to help speed up the answering of calls for those that need to speak to someone too and I’m supporting this pilot because the Chief Constable believes it will make a big improvement. I welcome feedback from our communities who use this service over the summer so please get in contact to let me know if it did or didn’t work for you.”
The new service is initially being trailed and evaluated for the 101 non-emergency number and the procedures when calling 999 will not change.
Anyone wanting to give feedback to the PCC on the new service should email email@example.com, visit devonandcornwall-pcc.gov.uk or call 01392 225555.