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Departmental Telephone Services

Volume 499: debated on Wednesday 11 November 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the (a) average time to answer a call, (b) average waiting time for a client during a call, (c) percentage of calls dropped or not answered and (d) average length of a call was in a call centre run by her Department and each of its agencies in the latest period for which figures are available. (299338)

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) operates through two main customer delivery businesses; Jobcentre Plus and the Pension, Disability and Carers Service (PDCS). Figures are provided for the contact centres run by each of these businesses.

Jobcentre Plus contact centre directorate service lines


(a) Average speed of answer

1 minute 22 seconds

(b) Average inbound hold time

11 seconds

(c) Calls dropped/not answered (percentage)


(d) Average call length

6 minutes 34 seconds

Pension, Disability and Carers Service

PDCS call centre information: 1 April 2009 to date





(a) Average time to answer a call

1 minute 32 seconds

31 seconds

1 minute 27 seconds

54 seconds

(b) Average waiting time for a client during a call

Information not available1

(c) Percentage of calls dropped or not answered (percentage)





(d) Average length of a call

3 minutes 11 seconds

1 minute 35 seconds

2 minutes 29 seconds

9 minutes 31 seconds

1 To fully calculate the average waiting time for a customer during a call would properly include the time spent by customers who terminate their call before they are connected to an agent. The management information available to calculate this is only held locally and is insufficiently robust for the purposes of answering a Parliamentary Question.


1. Prior to a call being answered by an advisor, the customer is initially presented with a recorded message. Following the end of that message, the customer’s call is then directed into a queue for answer. The average time to answer a call is calculated from the point that the call joins the queue for answer.

2. All timings are provided in minutes and seconds.


Pension data: Avaya and Opmis M1 systems.

Helpline/BEL/Carers data: Opmis M1 system.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether an assessment has been made of the level of failure demand in call centres run by her Department and each of its agencies. (299339)

The Department makes regular assessments of the levels of avoidable contact, most recently through a survey conducted in February 2009. Results from the survey are shown in the following table.

Million per year

Total calls received

Avoidable calls received

Jobcentre Plus



Pension Disability and Carer Service



Debt Management







1. Annual volumes are based on extrapolation from a sample survey taken in February 2009.

2. Figures exclude calls to Jobcentres as these are not run as call centres.

3. Avoidable contact is “contact that adds no value to the outcome. It includes contact that is nugatory, duplicative or caused by failures in business processes.” Avoidable contacts can include wrong numbers, progress chasing calls and calls for clarification.

In line with the recommendations of Sir David Varney’s report, Service Transformation, DWP has plans to reduce levels of avoidable contact by 50 per cent. by April 2011.