For the past few months Sunderland Contact Centre has been running a pilot on complaint handling. According to the Bank, staff chosen to take part in the pilot, which involves advisers taking customer complaint calls in addition to general banking calls, have been selected at random, although it’s generally the most experienced members of staff.

Members have told TBU that the average call handling time for complaint calls is 25 minutes but some can be over an hour long, depending on the complexity of the customer complaint.

Members are happy to take part in the pilot but the issue for advisers with childcare arrangements is that at the end of their shifts they can receive complaint calls which they are required to take. If the call goes on after their shift has finished advisers have no choice but to complete the call. Members can be dealing with complaint calls for anything up to an hour after their shift has finished.  Whilst advisers can claim overtime for the extra hours worked, those members with childcare responsibilities, which includes a lot of staff in the Sunderland Contact Centre, simply don’t have the luxury of being able to change their personal and domestic arrangements at short notice. Before their shifts are due to finish many staff are a worried that they are going to get a long complaint call which will cause childcare issues and that’s creating unnecessary anxiety and stress. We are aware of one member of staff who had to come off a call and immediately ring a family member to go and pick up her children from School. What would have happened if that family member had not been available? We are also aware of another member of staff who had to get her husband to leave work to collect the children because she had to deal with a call which lasted 50 minutes. Yet another member of staff missed a hospital appointment because she was stuck on the phone 40 minutes after her shift had finished.

We have spoken to members in Sunderland and they have come up with a range solutions including:

  • For those staff with childcare responsibilities the Contact Centre should be remove them from complaint calls an hour before their shift is due to finish. Those staff would carry on taking general banking calls only.
  • Removing those staff with childcare responsibilities from the pilot altogether if they want to.
  • Operating a ‘buddy’ system whereby the adviser could handover a call to a colleague. Call takeovers are common and if done properly are not detrimental to customer service.
  • TBU will be carry out a short survey to get members’ views on the pilot.

In the meantime, members with experiences of the pilot similar to the ones discussed above or who are involved in the pilot but want to go back to just taking banking calls should contact Mark Henderson of the Union’s Advice Team on 07595 466738 or email him at

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