The Shelter Scotland free housing advice helpline answers over 100 calls a day from people across the whole of Scotland and is at the core of the work that we do as a charity, so I wanted to spend some time to tell you what it is the helpline actually does.

Those of you who have seen the old Swiftcover advert (chickens with headsets) or who have been watching the new BBC3 series, The Call Centre, will assume that you have a fair idea of the work we do.

Our helpline doesn’t bear much, if any, resemblance to the one currently on the TV. Even if we do talk consistently and often about efficiency, statistics, performance, service levels and average call times. The kind of things that the third sector as a whole is starting to grudgingly acknowledge as important. The seemingly endless procession of third sector funding cuts were always backed up by performance figures and statistics and the two are often never far away from each other in conversation. For some the very thought of corporate attitude is still revolting. Targets and talk of brand values are often treated with suspicion and the onus on efficiency and statistics is seen to be detrimental to the quality of the work that the third sector does.

However, there is another argument that the two are completely and utterly as important as each other. Having the right people in place, empowering those individuals to make decisions and allowing people to see where they fit in to an organisational goal is also important. Providing people with the right tools to do their job and removing any blockages that stop them doing their job also helps.

Our calls answered rate has increased dramatically through introduction of new rotas and the implementation of increased client facing time. Call quality assurance, setting new expectations around targets, allowing our people to see the big picture around performance and how they contribute to our overall performance has also been nurtured. We have looked to re-affirm the importance of ownership, positive client experience and that old debate about calls answered vs quality remains at the forefront of everything that we do.

We have discussed the importance of maintaining the Shelter Scotland brand, how we are the public face (or voice) of the organisation. We have managed our resource in minute detail to ensure enough people are on the phone to answer our client enquiries.  Our mentality has shifted so that this becomes the norm and for all of us here at the helpline this is the expected behaviour we hope to demonstrate each day.

With all of these things in mind the answer to the question “What does the helpline do?”

  • we answer as many calls as possible and as well as we can (sometimes we answer them all)
  • we strive to ensure our performance statistics are on target and continue to demonstrate that our funding is used appropriately and to good effect
  • we ensure that we have the right people, equipment and training in place so that our clients are dealt with properly
  • we endeavour to help, empower and support those in need each day, to make decisions about their life and the lives of their loved ones for the better

But most importantly we strive to make sure that no individual or family in any situation is left feeling helpless, scared or distressed and that no individual is left bereft of friends or support because they can’t get through to a call centre like the one on TV.

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