The City is revamping its controversial call centre which has been marred with problems related to rude agents, an outdated system and staff shortages.The call centre has been a source of frustration for ratepayers and councillors who sometimes cannot get through to, or deal with, ill-mannered staff.The multi-million rand upgrade follows an October site inspection by the municipality’s strategic management committee (SMC) following several complaints about the functioning of its call centre.Acting City manager Neli Ngcobo said they requested the manager, Nqobile Madonda, to prioritise issues of importance because the municipality was “bleeding” when it came to the call centre. According to Madonda’s report, an estimated R30 million was required to revamp the facility, however, Ngcobo said the municipality was prioritising the urgent issues first and the rest would be done as funding became available. In October it was found that the agents did not believe that the working environment was conducive due to inadequate space, non-functioning air conditioners and there were concerns about the cleanliness of the office.The report also highlighted human resources challenges as there were allegations of abuse of sick leave by some of the agents. The call centre faced staff shortages as only 20 of the 32 approved positions had been filled. Madonda also raised the issue of staff morale, saying it was down because the agents believed they were short paid.They had lodged a task grade grievance requesting their job descriptions to be reviewed. They believe they should be on the same pay grade as the emergency services call centre agents.SMC recently approved the purchase of an air conditioner worth R20 000, a web-based interface costing R250 000, a R25 000 printing machine and expansion of offices, while 10 staff members were seconded to call centre agent positions to address the shortages. The City has also acquired a R300 000 voice data recording software to help in dealing with the rude agents. Ngcobo said future plans included getting a system that would also allow the management to listen to conversations and monitor how long the callers were kept on the phone before it was answered.The information and communications technology section, however, cautioned the municipality against “throwing gadgets at a problem which quite often doesn’t yield the desired results as most challenges experienced at the call centre are not technology-related but more of a human factor and poor business processes”. The human resources section said council had appointed a team to conduct a work study in order to identify gaps where employees were idle and some were overloaded which was hoped to streamline the functions and address challenges identified.