Argyll and Bute Council will launch its new self-service telephone payment line next week.
The line, which will go live on Monday March 26, is part of the authority’s ongoing improvement of customer access to council services.
Customers will be able to access the service through the existing Payments Golden Number of 01546 605515.
The line uses an automated voice recognition system to allow customers to pay their council tax over the telephone at any time of the day or night.
During working hours, callers will also have the option of talking to a customer services advisor.
Douglas Hendry, executive director of customer services, said the new system would make paying council tax easier for residents, and would also free up staff to deal with other enquiries.
“It is hoped that more than 20,000 payments a year will eventually be made using the new automated service,” he said.
“This will offer another way that the public can contact the council and free up our skilled customer services advisors, whose roles currently include taking council tax payments, to deal with other calls and face to face enquiries.”
Initially, the service will only take council tax payments for 2012/13, although more payment options will be added over the year.
The new system – called ‘Netcall’ – will eventually be able to provide three distinct services:
- A payment automated agent to automatically take payment by telephone, which is going live on Monday
- A switchboard automated agent to direct the calls of customers who know the name of the individual or team they wish to speak to. This is due to go live by the end of April.
- An information automated agent to provide information to customers on a subject receiving a high number of calls, but where the response is usually straight forward (such as ‘is my child’s school closed today because of snow?’). This will be available from May.
All payments through the new system will be taken using a mixture of voice recognition and touchstone keypad dialling.
Touchtone is used when the customer’s card details are being taken, to ensure no voice recording is done of the card details.
“We anticipate that the new arrangements will bring a number of benefits, not only to people trying to make a payment but also to those contacting the council for other reasons,” Mr Hendry said.
“There will obviously be no queuing times for callers, there will also be faster response times for other telephone and face to face services as advisors are freed up and there will be more customer choice; with people being able to make council tax payments 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“It is also very cost-effective, as the self service payments are wholly automated right through to cash receipting, so there are much lower administrative costs.
“We have carried out comprehensive testing on the new system, and are confident that all will run according to plan when it launches on Monday.”