Case study 2 - London Borough of Newham Contact Centre
In the London Borough of Newham, over 40 per cent of the 254, 000 residents are under 25 years old and more than 100 languages are spoken locally.
The contact centre is responsible for fielding telephone calls from individuals on various aspects of the council's responsibilities, including crime and anti social behaviour, education, housing, refuse collections, parking appeals and fines, citizenship, building control/planning and fly tipping.
Contact centre objective
The key to handling an angry or abusive caller is 'empathy'. Staff are trained to not take any customer's approach personally but instead to empathise with their situation and resolve the problem.
Risk of verbal abuse
- Customers are dissatisfied with the service.
- Customers feel they have been wrongly penalised - for example, traffic fines and penalties.
- Rudeness and threats due to antisocial behaviour.
Controlling the Risk of verbal abuse
Staff Training programmes
- Induction Training on essential call handling skills.
- Session on customer handling which utilises basic Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) techniques to help call centre staff to take control of a telephone call.
- Mystery shopping to other organisations to compare and learn from others.
- Centre consists of staff with 22 languages - also language shop which allows for 3 way call operation systems.
- Contact Centre management team work effectively with other departments to resolve problems - for example, the Refuse Team provide daily information via text alert to the contact centre team of problems affecting the service (vehicles not operational, staff sickness etc) in order to allow the contact centre to pre-empt calls and have solutions ready.
- Front end message on system to alert caller to any problems or issues with the council activities - for example, information concerning enquiries for the electoral roll.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems which log details of a customer's previous enquiry and the staff who dealt with the enquiry.
- Systems which flag up and warn staff and contractors of any service user where special arrangements may be necessary to protect against the potential for violence and aggression.
Working environment and support
- Systems in place to allow members of staff who have dealt with an aggressive caller, or dealt with complex or long calls to take a five minute break (a walk or cup of tea).
- Employees' 24 hour confidential telephone help-line available for staff to seek advice following incidents of violence/aggression. Referral to professional counselling where this cannot be provided 'in house'.
- The Contact Centre management team realise that motivated staff have reduced stress levels, which in turn results in better communication with customers. In keeping with this there are a number of events which are held in the office including:
- Regular fancy dress fun days.
- Placing of 'thank you' letters on the wall for all to see.
- Dress down Friday (staff pay 50p to dress down) where staff choose each month one of twelve charities to benefit from the proceeds of this event.