Force goes live with ‘web chat’

West Yorkshire Police has become one of the first forces to introduce ‘Live Chat’ in which the public can communicate with contact centre staff through live web-based chat.

Apr 30, 2014
By Paul Jacques

“Gone are the days when our customers only wanted to get in touch with us on the phone. We live in an ever-changing world and have introduced this to ensure we move with the times,” said Tom Donohoe, West Yorkshire Police’s customer contact centre manager.

“This in no way replaces the traditional means of communicating with us – it merely complements them. We recognise that in the ‘digital age’ some people want to get in get in touch through different ways.”

West Yorkshire Police began trialling the technology in February of this year and it has already been a big success. In March, the contact centre had 954 contacts from the public using this facility.

“In total, the online facilities that the customer contact centre offers were used 1,592 times, with very positive customer satisfaction feedback,” said Mr Donohoe.

“Live Chat complements our already existing online propositions – lost property, report a crime, anti-social behaviour reporting and the soon-to-be-introduced Track my Crime – and allows contact centre staff to promote these services to users of the service.

“Live Chat also enables us to better assist people who might be reluctant to speak to the force and offers an alternative means of getting in contact.

“It can also help people who are speech impaired or hard of hearing and again recent feedback from potential users who are hard of hearing revealed a great deal of support for the scheme.”

Chief Constable Mark Gilmore added: “New technology is integral to our future success and to our ambition to provide a world class policing service. We are already making use of that technology to support frontline officers, with the rollout of hand held devices, to complement laptops already fitted in police vehicles. This enables colleagues to respond more quickly and spend more time in the communities they serve, without the need to return to the police station to access computer systems.

“Similarly, this Live Chat facility directly improves contact with our communities, providing a new channel of communication in direct response to what the public said they wanted.”

West Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said: “Providing the best possible service to our communities through technology and innovation is at the heart of my police and crime plan.

“The introduction of this latest initiative will not only complement the many ways in which members of the public can now contact the police, but also offer greater accountability.

“As we face government cuts of more than £150 million by 2016/17, it is imperative that we continue to look towards new ways of working that ensure our neighbourhoods are safe and feel safe.”

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