This month we are looking at the award winning C2C call centre operated by Cardiff City Council. It may be odd to think of a council help desk as winner of a prestigious call centre award, but that is exactly what Cardiff’s C2C has been able to achieve.It may be odd to think of a council help desk as winner of a prestigious call centre award, but that is exactly what Cardiff’s C2C has been able to achieve. C2C which is short for Connect to Cardiff.
The award winning secrets come down to one core belief – to help the customer in a simple and efficient manner “I wanted to set the standard that if my mum was to call into the call centre then she would be proud of it, no matter which representative she spoke to” explains Isabelle Bignall winner of the UK Call Centre Manager of the year award.
As well as the C2C call centre, which is the front line for all calls into the council, Isabelle Bignall also manages 4 other call centre including Consumer Direct. The combined centres employ 115 Customer Service Representatives and take around 2,000 calls per day. The system operates a Mitel telephone system with an Apropos channel handler.
Email and web based email enquiries make up around 16% of C2C contact volumes. Being a welsh council they also have to provide a Welsh language service – but only take 10 calls per day (around 0.5% of their call volumes).
Here we look at some of the factors that have made this into an award winning call centre.
Weekly team meetings – that are never cancelled.
Every team member is expected to attend a half hour team meeting every Friday. The meetings are vital to effective communication and are never cancelled – even if there are calls waiting. Other teams provide cover during the team meetings where a range of communication takes place, as well as regular recognition of everyone’s performance.
Changing the members of the team on a regular basis
Around every four months they move around the members of the team. The danger is that after a while of working together in one team complacency starts to set in and cliques start to emerge. Teams are broken up and reformed and people are assigned to new seats.
Shiny star awards
The team make hand made awards
One team within the call centre had implemented a “shiny star” award. This is where the team gets to nominate another member of the team and present them with a home made award. A new hand made award is produced each week and a considerable amount of pride goes into making it.“I spent all day making this award – and now it’s being recognized – how cool is that” said Laura Kelly one of the team members who had made the daffodil award (illustrated) won by Chris Davies (pictured in white at the top of the page).
Stop angry people getting angrier
Many people are in a very agitated state when the call into the council. It could be that they are homeless, or that they have got rats in their house. People are often in an agitated state when they call in. “One technique that we use is simply to call an angry person by their name – this will often make them stop in their tracks” explains Isabelle Bignall. The other technique is to take ownership of the call. “We explain to the caller that we will phone around until we find the right person to deal with their enquiry. We offer them a call back, or if they would prefer to stay on the line, until we can solve their query. Invariably they opt to stay on the line”
Don’t lose talented employees
The call centre has a very low staff turnover rate of around 3%. C2C offers a job share facility for young mothers to return to work. Some mothers only work during school hours, while others split the week up into two halves.
When I visited the call centre excitement was brewing about who would take the millionth call. In many call centres this event would have passed unnoticed.
Isabelle Bignall’s main concern is with what comes next “We are operating an efficient contact centre where advocates are empowered to help the customer. What we are looking at – is where to take it into the future.”
Only time will tell.