President Jacob Zuma’s complaints hotline received 7 261 calls between 9am and noon — or 40 calls per minute — on its first day on Monday, his office said.
“We are experiencing high call volumes and are spending the day sorting out various glitches,” Zuma’s spokesman Vusi Mona, said in a statement.
“The hotline has received 7261 calls from 9am to noon this morning [Monday]. This equates to about 2420 an hour or 40 calls a minute.”
The 40 call centre agents had been fielding the calls in all 11 official languages, spending between 15 and 20 minutes on a call. The agents routed the complaints to the public liaison offices in the presidency, national departments and provinces, said Mona.
He said the call centre, with the toll-free number 17737, would spend the next few weeks ironing out teething problems, “with a view to having a fully functional service by the end of the month”.
Zuma took two calls himself on Monday morning. “President Zuma took a call from a distressed citizen from Mount Frere in the Eastern Cape who complained about ill-treatment that she had received at her local Magistrate’s Court. The caller’s husband passed away in 2006 and she has been trying to access his pension and has experienced problems.
“President Zuma also took a call from a gentleman from Ekurhuleni North, Benoni who highlighted his disappointment that his area has been experiencing sewerage leakages for months on end without the municipality resolving the matter.”
Zuma handed the information to call centre agents who were tasked with following it up to get a “speedy resolution”.
The president addressed the call centre staff on Monday morning, saying the response to the announcement of a hotline had been “overwhelming”.
“We want people to be able to tell us what their problems are with service delivery, so that we can assist directly.
“This means that you have a challenging job. You may receive calls from very angry people, who would have been provoked by your colleagues from other departments,” Zuma told them.
“Remain calm, patient and be humane and human. You will solve a lot of problems if you remain human and avoid being technical.”
He said once the system started working efficiently, the volume of calls would go down as the government “should by then be more responsive, departments will have learnt the importance of responding quickly”.
“If a person calls about an unpaid pension, do not say, ‘I do not work for social development’. They will say there is no water, there is no electricity, and be ready to deal with all of that efficiently and professionally,” said Zuma.
Sapa received an engaged tone when it tried to call the hotline several times between noon and 2pm. — Sapa
- Picture credit: World Economic Forum