LCQ7: Performance of one-stop service hotline 1823
Many members of the public have relayed that in recent years, when they called the one-stop service hotline 1823, they often had to wait for a long time for their calls to be answered by an operator, causing them to give up on their calls as they could not bear waiting that long. There were even cases where calls from members of the public were cut off by the hotline while waiting. Regarding the performance of 1823, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the monthly manpower situation of 1823 in the past 36 months, including the actual staffing establishment and average number of persons on duty to provide enquiry/complaint services through (i) telephone and (ii) non-telephone means (i.e. email, mobile application, e-form, short message service, etc.), as well as the monthly total numbers of employees;
(2) of the monthly utilisation situation of the 1823 service in the past 36 months, and set out, by service means (i.e. telephone and various non-telephone means) in a table, the number of enquiries/complaints received;
(3) of the monthly interquartile ranges of the waiting time, in the past 36 months, for calls made at different times of the day (i.e. morning, afternoon, evening, and late at night to the small hours) by members of the public to 1823 before the calls were answered by an operator;
(4) of the respective numbers of occasions in the past 36 months on which (i) members of the public gave up on their calls and (ii) 1823 suddenly cut off their calls, while they were waiting for 1823's operators to answer the calls; and
(5) how it calculates the processing time for enquiries/complaints received by 1823 through non-telephone means; of the average and the median processing time for those complaints made to 1823 through non-telephone means in the past 36 months?
1823 is managed by the Efficiency Office (EffO) to answer public enquiries for 23 participating departments and to receive complaints, suggestions and compliments about any area of Government services. Apart from phone call, members of the public can contact 1823 via written channels such as web form, email, mobile app, SMS and fax. To meet service need, 1823 staff work in shifts to provide 24-hour service to handle calls and cases received via written channels from the public. The 1823 system assigns phone calls and cases received from the written channels as well as replies from the government departments dynamically to staff for handling according to the prevailing workload and case nature. 1823 currently does not have dedicated staff for handling individual service channels.
Over the past two years, 1823 also actively supports the Government's anti-epidemic work. Apart from answering hotlines for 23 participating departments, 1823 also provides additional support to the Department of Health COVID-19 hotline, the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme hotline, the Return2hk and Come2hk hotline and the Hong Kong Health Code hotline. The epidemic-related calls received by 1823 increased by multiple times in February and March this year due to the fifth wave of the epidemic. Besides, the call volume increased tremendously when the Government announced and implemented major measures related to the epidemic. The call volume may even exceed the system capacity during the peak of call traffic. Up to the end of May this year, 1823 received more than 3.9 million calls in the first five months in 2022, which was more than double the call volume when compared to the same period last year. At the same time, the manpower situation of 1823 was seriously affected by confirmed cases, close contact cases and cases arising from compulsory testing notice. On a particular day in February this year, nearly 60 per cent of frontline staff were not able to report duty due to the abovementioned factors and the service of 1823 was seriously affected. Some calls from members of the public might not be answered by staff immediately and would be placed in a queue. To avoid prolonged waiting by members of the public, calls that cannot be answered for a while will be transferred to voicemail. The 1823 system will advise callers to call back later if the channels for voicemail box are also fully occupied.
To cope with the tremendous service demand, the EffO had redeployed staff internally from other posts and acquired additional hands from other departments from March to May 2022 to assist 1823 in handling calls from the public. Besides, multiple rounds of recruitment exercises were conducted during the period. Unfortunately, the manpower level still could not fully meet the extremely huge service demand. 1823 will continue to improve the arrangements for handling calls from the public during the upsurge in call volume, and will deploy manpower and adjust the workflow according to the actual situation to minimise the inconvenience to the public.
My consolidated reply to the questions raised by the Hon Luk Chung-hung is as follows:
(1), (2) and (4) During the past 36 months, the workload of 1823 was affected by the past four waves of the epidemic as well as the fifth wave at present. The average number of employees, calls received, call abandoned rate, calls busied out by the system and the number of cases received via various written channels are listed in table (1) at Annex.
On normal working days, there are more calls from 10am to 12pm and 2pm to 4pm, and 1823 will arrange more staff during peak hours according to operational needs.
(3) The call waiting time is affected by factors such as the prevailing call volume and call handling time. The waiting time for individual call varies. Calls may be answered immediately or may take several minutes. 1823 has not kept the distribution and waiting time of calls from citizens at different periods. The average call waiting time during the past 36 months is set out in table (2) at Annex.
(5) 1823 will accord priority to calls handling to meet the immediate need from members of the public while 1823 system will assign cases received from the written channels to staff when the call situation allows. For enquiries related to the participating departments, 1823 staff will provide the answers direct. For unresolved enquiries and complaints, 1823 will refer them to the relevant bureaux or departments for consideration and action. The average handling time for cases received from members of the public via written channels during the past 36 months is set out in table (3) at Annex.
Ends/Wednesday, June 15, 2022
Issued at HKT 12:58
Issued at HKT 12:58