Report 1—Call Centres

At a GlanceReport 1—Call Centres

What we examined (see Focus of the audit)

This audit focused on whether Employment and Social Development Canada; Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada; and Veterans Affairs Canada provided clients with accessible and timely call centre services. At Employment and Social Development Canada, we looked at call centres for Employment Insurance and for the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security. We also examined whether these departments reported on their call centre performance in a way that was relevant to clients, transparent, consistent, and verified to confirm accuracy. The audit also focused on whether the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and Shared Services Canada provided a strategy and support to enable these services.

Why we did this audit

This audit is important because call centres are a key source of government information. Callers make millions of calls to the government every year to get the information they need to make time-sensitive, important decisions. For example, they may be calling to ensure that they receive benefits on time or to find out about the status of an application.

Overall message

Overall, we found that callers had difficulty getting through to agents at government call centres. Instead of giving callers the option to wait to speak with an agent, the Employment and Social Development Canada call centres for Employment Insurance and for the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security, as well as the call centre at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, sent millions of calls back to the automated system or told callers to go to the website or to call back later. The majority of those who did get through to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada had to wait 30 minutes or longer to speak with an agent. The call centre at Veterans Affairs Canada allowed all callers to wait for an agent. For all four call centres, we found that for more than a million calls that did get into a queue to wait for an agent, the callers gave up waiting and hung up.

Call centres were not focused on clients when making decisions about call centre services and how they set service standards. For example, Veterans Affairs Canada stopped providing teletypewriter services for the deaf and hard of hearing without first consulting with or telling veterans. In addition, none of the call centres had service standards on the likelihood that callers would reach an agent or on the accuracy of the information they would receive. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada also did not have a service standard on how long it would take for callers to reach an agent.

Five years after the federal government started to plan the modernization and improvement of all of its call centres, Shared Services Canada’s initiative to modernize all 221 federal government call centres was rolling out for only 8 call centres. At the time of our audit, the Department had not yet finalized a plan for the remaining 213 call centres.

What we found about …

Call centre performance

The future of call centres

Entity Responses to Recommendations

The audited entities agree with our recommendations and have responded (see List of Recommendations).

Related information

Report of the Auditor General of Canada
Type of product Performance audit
Completion date 16 January 2019
Tabling date 7 May 2019
Related audits

For more information

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Illustration with a quote from the report