Customer Contact Centre Officer
Matt Orton works in Adur & Worthing Councils' contact centre as a customer service advisor, acting as the first port of call whenever residents' phone in.
Matt moved from Birmingham to Worthing about three years ago. He has worked for Adur & Worthing Councils for six months after working in customer service roles for over 20 years. Matt said:
"It's what I do, it's what I'm passionate about. We're here to listen, to understand, to problem solve. We're very approachable, we're human, we're just like you.".
Hello and welcome back to my weekly blog from the Councils' customer contact centre.
Working here means you do get to know a lot of what goes on across the authorities.
One of the areas I'm always interested in is the work of Russ Akehurst and Mike Barnard, who are our dog wardens covering the Adur and Worthing districts.
They are so helpful to us here in the contact centre and we really appreciate their quick response when we need them.
Members of the public will call us here in the contact centre to report stray dogs, dogs out of control, persistent dog fowling and owners reporting dog missing.
When they do, it takes us literally minutes to pass on the concern to either Russ and Mike, who we know will do everything they can to deal with the issue immediately.
This past week I had a call from a very distressed owner reporting his dog missing. He was very upset and naturally anxious as his dog had disappeared by a main road.
I placed the caller on hold and called through to the wardens. I was amazed to hear the warden had picked up a dog only five minutes earlier which matched the description. I was happy to report the dog and owner were reunited within the hour.
It's just one example of how we always try and help people.
We are also committed to staying on top of our brief, which is why there's lots of council tax training taking place here in the contract centre.
I'm having mine this week, which will include one hour of listening with a coach and then over two hours each day of intense training. It is just that, very intense and a lot to absorb, however the training by David Cheeseman is very good and interactive so I think we're getting along just fine ... I'll let you know how it's all progressing ...
See also: Dog Wardens
Well, what a busy week it's been in the customer contact centre. But come rain or shine, we are always here to answer your calls.
The only weekdays when we are not available are public holidays. In case it has escaped you, we have one of those coming up on Monday.
While that may mean a day out in the summer sun (hopefully) for most of you, it also means that your bin day is going to change.
Across Adur and Worthing, rather than skip collecting people's bins on bank holidays, we push collections back one day. So if you normally put your rubbish and recycling out on a Monday, it will move to Tuesday - staying that day until the next bank holiday when it will move again.
To find out your new bin day, please visit our bin day lookup page.
It's really easy to use: just put in your postcode, look up you address and then view your bin day calendar. If you want to keep a copy of it then there's good news - you can print or download this for sake-keeping!
We also have a clinical waste collections. These are also affected by the bank holiday. For this service we would have written to customers letting them know when we will be round to pick up the rubbish.
While bin days may change every now and again, one thing that remains constant is the differing opinions on seagulls.
Love them or hate them we appear to be stuck with them (we are by the sea after all!).
Personally, I think they are like car alarms with wings ... they are so loud this time of year.
We do get a lot of calls about them, usually asking whether the council can move them or send pest control to "sort them out".
In short, the answer is no, we can't touch or move them as they are a protected species.
We also receive a number of calls from the public stating they have seen people feeding them. In other parts of the country this is banned, for fear of encouraging the birds and making them aggressive to humans. If you are caught then fines are issued. But in Adur and Worthing there are no local by-laws which prohibit this.
From myself and all the team in the customer contact centre I hope you have a great long weekend. Just remember your bin day will change ...
Photos: Refuse lorries and seagulls
You may know from my previous posts that we do answer a lot of calls each day, hundreds!
That's every conceivable type of call, on behalf of every department within Adur & Worthing Councils.
We will always ask if there is anything else we can help you with, that's because we have access to so many systems.
For example, if you've recently moved to the area and called us about your council tax, we can help register on the electoral register while we have you on the phone to prevent you having to call us again. We often have people call back, for something completely different and sound bewildered or surprised that we've spoken to them only moments ago on a completely different phone number!
We do our best to answer all questions we get, but here are just a few of some of the more obscure ones ... (Thanks to my wonderful customer service colleagues for these ?)
- A young man wanted me to suggest a nice place for a first date
- “I want a reduction in my Council Tax as the fisherman's boat is obscuring my view of the sea”
- Someone called wanting to know what month in 2012 Katy Bourne became Police & Crime Commissioner
- “Can you tell me somewhere nice to stay in Blackpool?”
- A woman wanted a taxi but couldn't get one with all the numbers she had tried. When I said the council doesn't run a taxi service she said “well you license, them surely you could arrange one!!"
- Someone wanted the flight path of his flight from Heathrow to Australia. He said he had phoned the airline who wouldn't tell him, so he tried us instead.
Having said that, we do receive a high number of genuine and serious enquires.
Council tax call account for approximately 20% of the calls we receive daily. At the moment, the contact centre handle council tax enquired from Worthing residents. There are a number of contact centre staff who specialise with council tax.
From October this will be extended to Adur District residents who currently call CENSUS, the agency used.
In preparation for this, training has started well in advance. It's quite a complex area of expertise so we are being broken in gently!
We will start by sitting alongside an expert for a few hours each day for the next two weeks. We will be listening to calls to get a feeling as to what types of questions are asked and how to navigate the software.
From the 21st August 2017 we will receive our formal training from our Compliance and Quality Control Officer, who works in the revenues and Benefits Team. Following the training we will continue our shadowing with and expert and migrate over to taking calls while under the one-to-one supervision of an expert. Both the caller and we will be in safe hands.
Another week and another blog - it's been another busy week for all the team at the Councils' Customer Services contact centre.
This week we received close to 3,000 calls about a whole range of issues. Not everyone of these can be answered easily but we try to ensure everyone gets a good response before picking up the phone to the next person. The average wait time for this week was 3 minutes 44 seconds, something we are always looking at bringing down.
To help make sure that all our customers get off the phone happy, all call centre staff have been undergoing customer service training. This has now been completed but more follow-up training and support is expected as the training program in the coming weeks and months.
We also do our best to get out and about within other council teams to make sure we understand the work that everyone does.
This week my colleague Nigel and I spent time with the Building Services team for a couple of days.
We worked with the amazing Sharon and Mick who plan, co-ordinate and delegate all the repairs to our maintenance staff and sub-contractors.
It was an eye-opener seeing how many phone calls the take from the contact centre and contractors out in the field, while processing job sheets and filing all at the same time… that's true multi-tasking!
I also made a trip to the Mixed Recycling Facility at Ford near Arundel which is run by West Sussex County Council.
This was follow-on from the visit to our own waste depot to see what happens with all the recycling material after our waste team collect it. All the recycling material from every borough within West Sussex ends up in Ford.
The facility was impressive; the plant operates 24 hours a day on a continual conveyor system; all large items like large sheets of cardboard are removed then everything else sorted in rotating drum. What surprised me was how much material is recovered and what happens to it when.
Plastic packaging is bailed up and sent back to manufacturers where they shred it into small fragments. These fragments can be re-used to make things. I had no idea that a fleece jacket contained recycled plastic!
Also, we learned that glass bottles are ground down to a sand-like granules then used to make more glass or used in road construction to resurface our roads.
For more information about recycling here in West Sussex follow this link to Recycle for West Sussex.
Photo: Visting the Mixed Recycling Facility at Ford
I'm very happy this week.
This week, I have officially been with Adur & Worthing Councils for exactly six months.
I have my appraisal and appear to have passed with flying colours. This means my new starter probationary period has finished (the bosses obviously like me!)
Part of being able to understand customer complaints is to make sure we all have a wide ranging knowledge of what goes on across the councils. That's why recently I have spent a few days away from answering the phones.
Last week, members of the customer services team have received their first full day of training. This took place over three separate days, so that we were not all off the phone at the same time, obviously.
It was a full day packed with exercises and role-plays on how provide the best customer service experience to callers to our contact centre.
There was some very deliberate and funny examples of how NOT to speak to customer, just to emphasise the point - though naturally, we wouldn't do that outside of training as we're too professional!
It helped us learn what we can do better. We have all been trying out our new techniques to engage with our callers to form stronger connections. Let us know how we get on.
There was another trip out of the office later in the week when my colleague Sue and I were invited by managers Kate Woodcock and Chris West from Adur & Worthing's waste operations depot, to take a closer look at their setup at Commerce Way in Lancing.
We were keen to see how their team work and function, from the admin team to the guys on the bin trucks.
It was fascinating to see systems and vehicles they use out on the streets. I have to say how impressed and amazed to the size of the operation and how efficiently it ran.
The yard had some of the brand new bin trucks, some of which had only just been delivered. You should be seeing them on a street near you with the new Adur & Worthing livery.
I also picked up a number of interesting facts. For instance, did you know:
- The Councils have 13 refuse vehicles and 7 recycling vehicles:
- Each vehicle makes 1,169 lifts to empty refuse a day, collecting an average weight of 8.18 tonnes.
- This compares to 250 lifts of green waste (average weight of 4.84 tonnes) and 1,200 recycling lifts per day (average weight 9.5 tonnes).
Chris took Sue and I out in one of the dustbin lorries. We drove a short distance around the industrial estate. Chris demonstrated how the vehicle worked and how agile they are (due to the rear axle steering).
The vehicle was equipped with some impressive technology. All vehicles have GPS trackers and there are cameras all around the vehicle, which are recording 24/7.
The other essential piece of equipment is BARTEC. This shows the crew which route they are to take and shows in real-time the location of each property. The driver uses the touchscreen to identify which bins have been emptied and which ones were not out when they passed by. This is backed up with video footage.
Every bit of data feeds back to the depot and that information then goes live into our system in the contact centre. That is how we are able to check whether the bin was out or not when someone calls to enquire.
When the vehicle enters the depot, all video footage downloads automatically to the office servers - clever stuff!
If you are unsure of your bin day, as these do change after a bank holiday, you can use our website to put in your postcode, this will tell you which bin and which day. Visit - https://www.adur-worthing.gov.uk/bin-day/
Photo: BARTEC equipment in the cab of one of the new bin trucks
Some of you may have noticed that we have had some technical issues with our phone systems that affected every department across Adur & Worthing Councils.
The system outage was an external issue beyond our control. We would like to apologise to all tenants, residents and customers who had difficulty getting through.
Our backup plans for such eventualities were applied and our emergency phone lines activated which allowed for some inbound and outbound calls.
Despite the outage, the customer team worked hard to answer enquires which came through our website portal. There was an initial spike in the volume of calls received when the service was restored. The heavy influx of calls soon stabilised and the usual call volumes returned to normal.
This all came at a time when the entire customer service department is going through a bespoke training program and skill sessions called 'Reset'.
The managers have started their training modules and this week the Customer Service Advisor staff start theirs. The purpose of the training is to enhance our training and knowledge, which will improve the customer's experience when calling us.
My training will is in the next few days, so I'll let you know how that went in one of my next blogs.
There has also been some intense training for four of our team members, of which I am one of them. The purpose of this is become Adur Homes Repairs Champions.
This involved shadowing staff in Building Services, Adur Homes Administration, Maintenance Inspectors and going out to tenant's homes with repair operatives to see what goes on.
Before we did this, once we logged their repair on our system, we didn't really know what happened behind the scenes.
The shadowing allowed us to see and experience the complete journey from the point where a tenant would call us through to completion.
We saw first-hand how the job was assigned a contractor by admin and building services, and the work the operative attending the property to complete the repair, as well as tracking the repair through photos.
Back in the office at Portland House we witnessed how the admin team processed, scanned and filed paperwork and how they validate and pay invoices send in by contractor (this was far more complicated than I expected!)
It was a highly informative experience and it gave us much a clearer understanding of what takes place behind the scenes.
This outcome of the training means that there are always a dedicated expert available to answer enquiries and to assist other team members. The plan is to roll this training out to all customer service advisors.
Photo: Customer Service Advisors at work in or Contact Centre at Adur & Worthing Councils
Let me introduce myself, My name is Matt and I'm one of 23 dedicated and friendly Customer Service Advisors here at Adur & Worthing Councils.
Whenever you phone the council, the likelihood is your call will come through to us first.
We're a great team of people here and we are all dedicated to providing the best customer journey and experience possible.
We have exceptional knowledge about our region and the council services we provide.
Our job is to be there for our Adur and Worthing residents and anyone else for that matter.
The South Coast in a popular tourist destination, we love telling visitors about the great places to see and local events on we have to offer.
On average, we answer in excess of 4,000 calls per week. At certain times of the year you can almost double that!
Within the first hour of the day, we have probably answered about 250+ calls. We do pretty much everything such from log your repair, listen and deal with your complaints, give reassurance, to direct your call to a specific person or department.
We cover every aspect of enquiry for the council.
Our calls can be anything from council tax enquiries, reporting a missed bin collection, repairs and maintenance to your property, housing enquiries, lost & found pets, benefits, taking payments and so much more. The list is endless.
Of course, we are not on our own, a whole host of back office teams from many different departments work alongside and supports us. Therefore, if we don't know the answer, we probably know someone who does and we'll get the answers for you or put your call through.
- Every morning between 9am to 11am we are at our busiest. Monday mornings (or a Tuesday morning after a bank holiday) is likely to be exceptionally busy. If your call isn't urgent and you and can wait until after this time, you will probably have a much shorter wait time or no wait at all.
- Our website contains a lot of the information you could be looking for. The site is open 24hrs a day, which means you can contact us or make payments at your convenience. Use the search box located in the top right corner of our website (or the site's A to Z) to find what you're looking for.
Watch this space, there's more to follow and I'll keep you posted on forthcoming events, news and helpful information.
Photo: Customer Service Advisors in the Contact Centre here at Adur & Worthing Councils
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