Call centre quarrel

The City’s service hotlines are failing the public, say Durbanville councillors who have themselves landed in limbo while trying to use them.

The issue came up at last week’s Sub-council 7 meeting, where councillors said they had felt ratepayers’ pain by trying to log complaints themselves.

Ward 21 councillor Taki Amira said he knew of residents who had been without water for four days, and he asked why stand-by teams could not help in such cases. “We are taking the flak,” he said.

Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services and energy, said the City was lowering water pressure to ration the supply and that it was likely to cause outages in some parts of the city – especially high-lying areas – during peak demand, typically between 5am and 9am and between 5pm and 9pm.

“In this case, the system should recover once the demand decreases,” she said.

Ms Limberg said she had not heard of pressure-related water outages of longer than a day. Those could be due to pipe bursts or faulty water meters.

Mr Amira said some Eversdal residents had battled to log complaints, and when he had tried, using the the SMS line, he had still not been given a reference number after eight hours.

“There’s something not right at the call centre, and it needs to be sorted out,” he said.

Proportional councillor Erika Botha-Rossouw said she had languished on the line for more than an hour, run out of airtime, had to top up and again run out of airtime, while trying to reach a call-centre agent.

“No wonder the taxpayers are frustrated,” she said.

Proportional councillor Franklyn Raymond said he had tried logging complaints by SMS but had turned to the call centre after getting no response and had spent half an hour to an hour on the phone.

“The SMS system seemed like a nice option but it needs to work,” he said.

Ward 112 councillor Theresa Uys said residents believed “the more you call, the more pressure you put on” but that only clogged the system. “Once you have a reference number – it carries the same weight,” she said.

Area-based service delivery director Louis Scheepers said the City’s call centre was swamped: on top of general accounts inquiries it was also dealing with inquiries related to the water crisis.

“We ask residents to please bear with us during this time. Where possible, residents are encouraged to log their service requests via the self-service option on the City’s website,” he said.

The SMS system was working but the response might be delayed because of the high volumes, he said.

Sub-council 7 chairman Gehard Fourie complained that some of the water-management devices – fitted at homes using more than 20kl a month – were faulty and, in some cases, the City was installing them without telling residents.

“I know of two incidents, one where residents were only notified on the day of installation and the one where residents were notified two days after the installation took place. We are required to give residents seven days notice,” he said.

He asked whether there was a problem with the water devices and how many complaints about them had been followed up.

“It should be noted that any water saved on a particular day can be rolled over for one calendar month with the new allocation commencing on the first of every month. Application can be made to the City to increase the daily allowance of 350kl with sound motivation,” he said.

The devices cost between R4 560 and R4 732 and are installed at the homeowner’s expense. Some

14 000 have so far been installed at the homes of high users city-wide.

There are several ways residents can log service requests:

WhatsApp to 063 407 3699 for water-related queries

Email to water@capetown.gov.za for water-related queries

SMS to 31373 for water-related queries

SMS to 31220 for electricity-related queries

The eServices portal on the City’s website: www.capetown.gov.za

Email to accounts@capetown.gov.za for general account-related queries