Friday, 7 November 2014

Capita 999: The extraordinary tale of a Barnet switchboard operator Part 2: What Capita Did Next

Capita 999: The extraordinary tale of a Barnet switchboard operator Part2:   

What Capita did next....

There is something Capita can do fantastically well.  They can do everything wrong and charge through the nose for it.
Good one.  And it's our money!  

I'm getting back to you to report what Capita did next following my call with the cackling London Borough of Barnet phone operator, the call when I wanted to speak to Andrew Nathan, Head of Governance.  As a reminder, or if you missed it, here is my earlier blog with the details of THAT call:

Since then a complaint has been made on my behalf by the now "acting up" Head of Governance and the result is that Capita is sending me to Coventry, both me and Councillor Alan Schneiderman, another Capita sufferer among many. 

My complaint has taken on marathon proportions; a box-ticking, over-egged, placating exercise. Dare I suggest that this is because it was registered as a "Member Complaint". Would I have received so much attention if I were not a Councillor, but instead one of the residents who have endless trouble every day contacting Barnet Council by phone? It has involved 7 Capita flunkies, a 'thorough' investigation after listening to a recording of the call and action points to improve the service that put into question the whole system. I have received two direct emails from the Head of Service - Customer Services, and a plethora of internal emails between Capita employees that were certainly not for my eyes but were left on the bottom of the emails to me!  I'm just lucky, I guess.  One from Capita Local Government Head of Employee Engagement (the first person contacted to deal with the complaint) to two others in Local Government Services with a copy to another reads: "Hi both"...."not sure how it came to me" and she continues that she's not sure of the "complaints escalation process".  

Capita Head of Service - Customer Services has also offered to have a chat with me so he can understand what happened - they have the recording for heaven's sake - and then comes the special treat, a trip to Coventry to see how the call centre system works, though I think he works in Southampton judging by his email address. But this turned out to be some time in the future because no sooner was an offer of a chat made and I accepted by email the same day then I received an out of office reply saying he was out of the office for the next 17 days!  I laughed out loud or LOL in social media terminology to aid David Cameron if he is reading this.

But another message arrived from Capita Head of Service - Customer Services with an apology later that afternoon before he dropped off the planet for a while.  He regretted my bad experience, claiming Capita's aim is always to give an excellent level of service, adding "I accept that the call did not reach the high standards we expect".   His answer recalls an episode of Faulty Towers when Basil taunts Sybil in the style of Mastermind: "Sybil Faulty, Torquay, answering questions on the bleedi*g obvious".  The Capita man deduces: "In short, what should have been a standard, quick switchboard transfer took far too long and was handled badly by us".

Interesting, then, that now the Capita man is back he phones me from a mobile and that is how I return his calls; an admission perhaps on his part that I may never have got through to him if I had rung his Council number. Barnet services are spread far and wide.  ABB, Anywhere But Barnet.  Imagine the embarrassment if the operator had no idea who the Head of Service - Customer Service might be.  "There's an acting up Head of Governance or an interim Monitoring Officer, would they do?  I can't know everyone." 

I have decided to take up Capita's offer to meet and chat and go to Coventry so I can raise all my complaints both as a resident and a Councillor, of the unacceptable performance of the Barnet call centre since the day Capita took over until today.  From the start Capita cut the number of lines by 25% which causes the whole service to regularly break down in overload, and we are served by inadequately trained staff who have no idea who anyone is, what they do or the services offered.  And Capita's way of dealing with the failure of services including IT and wages is to constantly claim that problems are temporary glitches or teething problems that have either been resolved or are in hand and about to be resolved.  If an issue can be marked as resolved whether or not this is the case, then the same issue is begun again as a new issue, the box is ticked and Capita are off the hook.  I want to go to Coventry to see Capita operating as Barnet far from Barnet. 

But perhaps we shouldn't blame the switchboard for the sins of their Capita fathers.  Names are dropping off the Barnet telephone list like flies:  cutbacks, jobs going outside the Borough, jobs going to the private sector, broken barnet, tinpot Barnet, a disfunctional, discredited Barnet at risk under the regime of Richard Cornelius and his Tory cohorts. 

This is not just a matter of a badly-handled phone call.  I will be blogging about more Capita experiences in a series: Capita 999: Tales of the Expected because Capita's greed and their dire standard of services are having ruinous effects on the Borough and on residents' lives.  

My blog of 12 December 2012: "Why the Barnet 10 chose Capita" names that small Conservative Cabinet who tied us into the Capita Contract for 10 years against advice, without consultation, without considering an inhouse option and without reading the contract that is skillfully worded to add to our costs rather than to make savings. 

As Yeats in "Easter 1916" almost wrote:

Our part
To murmur name upon Tory name

All is changed, changed utterly
A terrible Barnet is born


  1. I have a long term disability affecting my speech amongst things
    I made a formal complaint against the 30 conversations with the switchboard
    All were upheld and all the staff were sent for disability awareness training and most disciplined for poor service

    Yet another arm of capita offer expert dsi awareness training to local and central government!

    They were terrible to me and mocking my speech impairment

  2. Thank you so much for this. I very much appreciate you taking the trouble to share the totally unacceptable way in which you have been treated. It's only by recording such incidents that we can know the ways in which the service has not only failed, but has caused so much upset to Barnet residents. One bad phone call might be considered to be unlucky, but thirty indicate consistent bad practice. May I ask you roughly when this happened and over what sort of time period? Thank you again, and all best wishes.

  3. July to sep

    Was Trying to get a freedom pass, assisted travel didn't know the rules etc.