Customer Service Manual - Section 2 : Customer Service Administration

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Customer Service Manual - Section 2 : Customer Service Administration

Customer Service Administration

Standards and Key performance indicators

The Agency key customer service standards are set out in our Valuation Office Agency (VOA) Service Standards leaflet and our Code of Practice (CoP) on Complaints. As part of the management team, the Customer Service Managers (CSM) will oversee the operation of CCR for their Business Units, including monitoring registered correspondence and complaints. CSMs will also monitor the time taken to answer telephones and see visitors. The CSMs can then address areas of unsatisfactory performance. The standards include:

  • To answer telephone calls with in an overall average of 10 seconds
  • To acknowledge all correspondence within 3 working days
  • To provide a full reply within an average of 6 working days. An interim reply will count for statistical purposes as having met the target only if it meets the full definition of an interim reply.
  • To see all callers to our offices within 5 minutes

In line with the Agency’s Service Standards, we aim to answer questions straight away and, if we cannot do so, we will arrange to call them back within 48 hours.

Definition of correspondence

Correspondence is defined as any piece of post (letter, fax or e-mail) received from the general public that requires a reply. Here “members of the general public” will include council taxpayers, ratepayers, rating agents, solicitors, MPs, corporate bodies, etc. Post from public bodies, (including Billing Authorities), which requires a reply should also be recorded. See also “What Should be Recorded on CCR?” below.


An acknowledgement simply acknowledges receipt of a piece of correspondence. It should thank the correspondent for their correspondence and say who will provide a reply. If possible, it will also say how long it will take us to provide a full reply.

Interim reply

An interim reply will provide as much information as possible, including saying that we are seeking information in order to provide answers to questions that we cannot yet answer, and answering as many questions or concerns as possible, using all available information.

Full reply

A full reply will provide all information, if applicable, and answer all questions or concerns raised in the correspondence. Where information cannot be provided, a full explanation should be given as to why.

CCR will be used to log complaints, non address specific property enquires, enquires with multiple addresses, enquiries from MPs/AMs, enquiries relating to Business Rates Retention and requests for information under FOI (Freedom of Information Act), DPA (Data Protection Act), EIR (Environmental Information Regulations) and CRCA (Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act). Correspondence relating to live NDR casework received prior to the Sub-Programme start date or before meaningful discussion starts on CT cases is subject to different processes.

It will use all logged data falling within the Agency’s definition of correspondence to calculate your ‘cleared in time’ percentage for your Business Unit. It will take the total amount of time and divide it by the number of ‘cleared’ records to arrive at the ‘cleared in time’ percentage figure. You will ‘clear’ a record when a date has been placed in the interim or full reply box. If your interim or full reply does not fully meet the respective definitions in any way, Internal Audit may class it as a failure when carrying out its annual performance validation of CCR.


A complaint means any expression of dissatisfaction received from any of our customers. Ideally this should be responded to at point of contact and resolved. If a piece of correspondence is considered to be a complaint, it should be passed to the CSM who will register it on CCR and then either handle the complaint themselves or pass it to another member of staff who will provide a reply.
Making the decision that a piece of correspondence constitutes a complaint requires an intelligent assessment on receipt of the letter / email / fax.

The CSM should oversee the progress of all complaints whether or not they provide a reply and they should ensure it is answered within the prescribed time limits wherever possible.

Personal Callers

The Agency has set itself a target that it will see (at the office’s reception) all its customers within 5 minutes of their arrival. There is a register called the Visitor Log in all offices to record personal callers and statistics are drawn from this register to monitor Agency achievement against our published Service Standards.
CSMs are required to pull together all statistical data for their Business Unit and forward figures for the Statutory Valuation Team and Property Services to a nominated employee. They should then place the figures for their Business Unit on the visitor return that is held on the Public drive. They should keep an audit trail of the data they have placed on this return for 3 years plus the current year as set out in the Agency record management policy. CSM and nominated employees can view data for the entire Agency.
The Local Housing Allowances teams should keep and maintain a visitors log and pass the figures on to Christine Booth in NSO Halifax who will input them on the visitor return which is held on the public drive.


From 1 June 2005 CCR was introduced to the Agency network to combine the software applications known as,
• Turnaround of Post, to record and monitor post received by the Agency,
• Telephone Logging, to record details of telephone calls made by Agency employees or received by them,
• Complaints Database, to record and monitor complaints received by the Agency, and increase functionality for all users.
CCR assists us in monitoring the time taken to acknowledge and reply to correspondence, deal with complaints and record details of telephone conversations we have with external callers. Everyone is encouraged to make full use of this application, both to manage their own timeliness and to establish as full a record as possible of all our interaction with a customer. By recording all this information on CCR, rather than on handwritten notes or electronic documents on local drives, they can be accessed if needed.

How can I access CCR?

CCR is available via the X drive / Miscellaneous / Customer Contact Record (CCR). An employee who frequently uses CCR should create an outlook shortcut by making a right click on their mouse and choosing the create shortcut function. Other shortcuts can be found in the ‘misc’ folder on the desktop or in the Start -> Programs -> Misc menu.

Who can access CCR and what procedures can they carry out?

All members of staff have level 0 access to CCR. This means they can add, edit and save records in CCR. CCR will recognise a staff member’s login when they first access CCR. They can also view and extract reports showing whether or not they are meeting the Agency’s statistical targets for acknowledging and providing replies to correspondence. Local managers will decide how best to operate CCR in their locality but they are required to adhere to existing available instructions.


Level 1 and 2 users are called administrators. A level 1 administrator will exist in a network office and level 2 in the Chief Executive’s Office. A level 1 administrator is able to use administrative functions; Contacts, Templates, Teams, E-Mail Reminders, Administrators and Office Addresses. In addition they can change a user’s permission from 0 to level 1 administrator or revert another level 1 administrator to a level 0 user. All CSMs are a level 1 administrator and they are expected to be the main administrator within their business unit and have overall responsibility for the operation of CCR.

It is, however, suggested that the CSM has a deputy system administrator to act as a back up and to provide help to other staff who need it. Senior managers, including Statutory Valuation Team and Property Services, Local Housing Allowances functions and Specialist Business Units, will appoint administrators to act for particular teams. A level 2 administrator has access to many additional administrative functions that enable them to make a full range of changes that affect the entire Agency.

What should be recorded on CCR


You must record on CCR all correspondence, as defined above relating to all business streams / Units. It is also necessary to record correspondence from other bodies including Local Authorities or Billing Authorities and Other Government Departments, to check that you are acknowledging and providing replies in line with our timeliness targets, this will include any requests for information or requests to arrange a meeting about rates retention (Localism). If you do this, make sure you tick ‘yes’ in the box titled ‘received from other Government Departments and Local Authorities’ (HMRC/OGD/LA) on the ‘Response’ page of CCR. CCR records relating to enquiries received from OGD/LA do not count when calculating the percentage average timeliness figure to provide a full reply against our timeliness target.

If correspondence relates to a live CT or rating case, or where there is no live case and the correspondence is asking for a review of the NDR or CT assessment, it will be progressed as a report in accordance with the current enquiry handling process (“Code 90” procedures). As with complaints, intelligent assessment will be required to properly categorise correspondence for CCR input, and post teams should ensure that local arrangements are in place to make sure this happens.

Compliance with this process will be regularly monitored by CSMs to ensure that the appropriate level of response to customers is being maintained – issues of concern will be passed to relevant Line Management for action.(see also “Once Letters Have Been Acknowledged” below)

E-Mail correspondence

We aim to reply to correspondence in the mode it is sent to us unless the correspondent requests that we reply to them in a different way. For example a member of public may send us an e-mail and request that we send them a reply by letter. Both original and reply e-mails should be kept in the appropriate case file, either electronic (EDRM, L Drive, Q Drive etc) or hard copy, as an audit trail.

Telephone calls

You should record details of telephone calls that cannot be dealt with under the Code 90/99 process but fall within the written correspondence categories listed above on CCR, (special arrangements apply to the Local Housing Allowances – see below.) You should also record details of all telephone calls in the nature of a complaint to the Agency. When recording information, you should record a précis or outline of what has been requested from us and what you have agreed to do. In other instances, you may wish to record details of telephone calls where the taxpayer has been rude, aggressive or has made threats against a particular member of staff. Remember to always record factual information rather than your own opinions about the caller. When recording information, be mindful that the customer may at some point read it too – they could ask for a copy of what is written by making a subject access request under the Data Protection Act. Where the caller’s actions cause the member of staff taking the call cause for concern, they should speak to their Line Manager about completing an Inspection Awareness Document.

Local Housing Allowances

Telephone calls received from members of the public about Local Housing Allowances functions should be directed to the Network Support Office in Durham. Their telephone number is: 08450 264696

What should not be recorded on CCR

You should not record:

  • Proposals / Appeals (whether hardcopy or electronic)
  • A letter accepted as an appeal (where there are no questions to answer within that letter)
  • Forms
  • Questionnaires
  • Surveys
  • Courtesy copy correspondence
  • Contact that requires treatment under the Code 90/99 process on the CDB.
  • Correspondence relating to live casework for any business stream / Unit.

When should we use CCR

Ideally you should use CCR to record all relevant correspondence and details of telephone calls not being treated under the code 90/99 process on to CCR on the day it is received or arrives in the office. Some members of staff have been issued with telephone headsets that facilitate the recording of conversations as they are taking place. Depending on the specific role of the member of employee, this may be something they wish to consider using as it enables them to use both hands when taking the call.

General Procedure and Guidance

Once letters have been acknowledged

Correspondence registered on CCR should be endorsed accordingly, so that the caseworker is aware that a reply is required and be placed on EDRM or saved to a folder outside EDRM in accordance with instructions. This is in addition to the caseworker being reminded periodically via the automatic CCR feature that he or she has outstanding correspondence that needs a reply.

CSMs will produce a weekly download from CCR for their area of responsibility and supply lists of outstanding correspondence to Unit Management where there has been no acknowledgement or response within time limits. CSMs should also draw Unit Management’s attention to any other issues of concern manifested in correspondence handling, for example matters already known to be contentious.

Making an interim or full reply

Employees should make every effort to provide a full reply within an average of 6 working days using clear plain language. Where it is not possible an interim reply should be made within this time frame, based upon all available information at that time. This must be followed by a full reply at the earliest opportunity that will serve to answer all remaining unanswered questions or concerns. Caseworkers or nominated employees should record the date of the interim reply on CCR but not enter a date in the full reply box until such time a letter is sent to the correspondent answering all questions or concerns.

Who shall record the correspondence / telephone call on CCR?

All (except Local Housing Allowances)
Local managers must decide whether it will be the responsibility of caseworkers to enter the relevant details on to CCR or whether staff engaged in support work or in the post location should be given the responsibility for doing this job. Correspondence should be scanned into EDRM, L Drive or Q Drive and the hard copy retained or disposed of in accordance with record management guidelines for that type of work.

Local Housing Allowances

Local Housing Allowances correspondence and complaints received in Business Units and Specialist Units must be referred to the Network Support Office (NSO) Durham. If the correspondence or complaint is received from a member of the general public, the NSO Durham will record it on the Agency’s CCR and allocate it to the appropriate caseworker who will provide a reply. The caseworker will provide a copy of the reply to NSO Durham who will finalise the CCR.

Local Housing Allowances MP Direct correspondence not addressed to the Chief Executive and received anywhere other than NSO Durham should be referred to NSO Durham. NSO Durham will forward the correspondence to CEO/CST who will provide a reply which will be copied to the appropriate director. CEO/CST will provide a copy of the reply to NSO Durham.

Local Housing Allowances MP Direct correspondence addressed to the Chief Executive and received anywhere other than CEO/CST should always be referred to CEO/CST.

Monitoring correspondence placed on CCR

Managers of teams handling incoming post are responsible for ensuring that they have a robust process in place to ensure that an intelligent decision is made concerning every item of correspondence coming into their team.

CCR will send e-mail reminders weekly or at agreed intervals, for all outstanding items, unless the Administrator has deactivated the automatic reminder system. CSMs should monitor use of the auto reminder function on a regular basis to ensure this has not been deactivated.

It is required that Team Leaders should be actively involved in monitoring outstanding correspondence held by their team members as well as taking prompt action on reminders received from CSMs so that all correspondence receives an interim or full reply within the Agency’s time limits for doing so. This will help ensure the Agency’s timeliness targets for replying to correspondence are achieved.

The CSM, as the guardian of CCR, will monitor the turnaround of correspondence in their area of responsibility and should raise risk items and issues with local or Unit Management, (see also “Once Letters Have Been Acknowledged” above).

For the avoidance of doubt, at all times Unit Management are responsible for ensuring that all items outstanding on CCR are progressed in a timely manner.

Local Housing Allowances

The CSM will monitor correspondence and complaints received from members of the general public about the Local Housing Allowances including MP Directs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the date of receipt of correspondence?

The receipt date is when it first arrived in the Agency and it is this date that should be recorded on CCR. On receipt of correspondence (Letter, Fax or E-Mail), it should be clearly date stamped using the location stamp and the user should ensure it is legible. Normally only one date stamp should appear on a piece of correspondence but, where it has been sent to another office, for example a local office to a specialist office, a number of date stamps may appear. This should clearly show, where necessary, the movement of a piece of correspondence throughout Agency offices.

What date do I record as the date of receipt for E-Mails and faxes received in the evenings, at weekends or during bank holidays?

E-Mails and faxes must be recorded as being received on the day they arrived. Therefore items arriving between the time the office closes and Midnight of the previous day should be recorded as being received on the previous day. Items arriving at weekends or on Bank Holidays should be recorded as being received on the first working day after the break.

How do we process Letters marked ‘personal’?

Where correspondence is marked ‘personal’ the addressee only should open the letter. When the letter arrives in the office, the envelope should be date stamped and passed to the relevant member of staff. Once opened by the addressee, if the letter is found not to be of a personal nature and it falls within the Agency definition of correspondence, it should be registered on CCR using the date stamped on the envelope, not the date the addressee opens the letter. At that time, the letter itself should be date stamped using the location date stamp, showing the same date as that on the envelope.

Do we record a piece of correspondence (letter, fax or E-Mail) on CCR that will be replied to by another office?

Yes, you should record all correspondence on CCR that falls within the Agency’s definition of correspondence, whether or not your office will reply. You should first date stamp all correspondence and then find out who will be responsible for the reply. You should then acknowledge the correspondence within our timeliness target of 3 working days, even if you will not be the person replying to the letter. If another location / team are responsible for providing an interim or full reply, you should scan it to them immediately following registration and acknowledgement.

Local Housing Allowances

You should send a copy of the correspondence to the NSO Durham who will acknowledge it and arrange for a reply to be sent.

Can we reply to a piece of correspondence (letter, fax or E-Mail) in another mode?

We aim to reply to correspondence in the mode we receive it, for example when we receive a letter we should answer with a letter unless the correspondent has requested otherwise. However, you may telephone the correspondent to provide an acknowledgement, interim or full reply to a piece of correspondence. If you do so, you must record the full details of the telephone call on the response page of CCR. For example, a rating caseworker that receives an enquiry about the way a class of property is valued for rating purposes may find it easier to telephone the correspondent to provide an acknowledgement and full reply. If you are providing a full reply, your note should demonstrate that you have answered every question, enquiry or concern raised in correspondence. You must speak to the correspondent or their representative; it is not sufficient to leave a message on a telephone answer machine to provide an acknowledgement, interim or full reply to correspondence. Internal Audit will not accept the use of telephone answer phone messages for these purposes. You should always make sure you speak to the correspondent or write a letter.

How do we record a telephone call as an interim or full reply?

Where the interim or full reply is made by telephone, detailed notes should be made in the CCR notes box and, in the case of a full reply, it should show that every question or concern raised in correspondence is answered in full. It would be helpful here to place bullet point answers to raised questions. Also, the date of the telephone call together with a date and time stamp should be placed in the CCR notes box. The member of staff who has made or taken the phone call should place the notes in the notes box and arrange for any supporting file notes to be placed with all other papers / scanned documents relating to that correspondence In EDRM, L Drive or Q Drive

How do we record email correspondence for audit?

E-mails should be stored in EDRM or, where EDRM is not yet in use, in the relevant folder in the L or Q Drive using the appropriate record management naming convention.

Should I always keep hardcopy correspondence

The Agency policy is for correspondence received to be scanned at point of receipt and following quality assurance hardcopies destroyed in accordance with the post process (link instructions). Likewise correspondence sent, where EDRM support is available should be imported or scanned and stored in the appropriate EDRM folder, with the hardcopy destroyed. Where the relevant business correspondence is not supported by EDRM a hardcopy should be retained either within an appropriate hardcopy case file or within a locally managed miscellaneous correspondence file and retained for the length of time appropriate to that piece of work.

CCR Guidance is provided on the Customer Service Homepage.

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