The Full Story of the Brisbane City Council Call Centre
To piece together the story of how the BCC Call Centre came into existence I had access to all key decision makers in the process, the documentation and measurements. It's not necessarily fair that this story is written from a call centre viewpoint, as I am sure a change management expert or an expert in local government administration would write a very different article. So this is my story written from my perspective and my understanding.
In November 1994 Customer Service Manager Judith Dionysius, undertook a project to improve service delivery of the BCC. This order originated directly from The Lord Mayor Jim Soorley, who in his first 12 month in office had become frustrated by the lack of urgency of the BCC in responding in a timely manner to address customer needs (like most bureaucracies anywhere in the world; the new slant, is that here is a customer focussed Lord Mayor clearly looking beyond buying votes at election time. See interview with Jim Soorley).
The scope of the project was to look at service delivery by phone and over the counter and to recommend ways to integrate customer service and make it faster, better and cheaper. The Vision was to do more by phone and to add-value to counter services. A vast array of research projects of customers and staff were undertaken, including complaint handling and focus groups. At the same time mapping of customer contact processes was initiated to get a grip on ways to take time and cost out of the customer interaction.
A some point, probably June/July 95 ( my guess), it became clear that to achieve improvements on the envisioned scale a call centre strategy was called for. A study identified an Eletrical Utility as a 'best practices' call centre with related functions, and now followed a period of study tours ensuring staff and unions had a good grasp of the consequences of implementing an integrated call centre concept at BCC.
In February 96, a recommendation to establish the BCC Call Centre was submitted to the Council. It included most importantly the proposed purpose : 1) To add value to the BCC operational areas, 2) 90% of all calls answered in 20 second & 3) 90% of all calls to be handled at point of entry.
To have any hope of achieving these ambitious goals a Knowledge-Management Project was instituted to identify 'what information is needed to do what' with the view of creating a process of navigation rather than burdening the reps with the need to remember what answers are found where. All the mapped contact processes were automated and for each fulfillment process several Key Performance Indicators (KPI) were defined, as to the maximum time allowed to respond.
On October 14 1996, the BCC Call Centre started it operations with 40 reps answering 1200 calls a day for a limited number of the BCC agencies. In August 1997, 24-hour service was introduced and today, July 1998, the call centre handles 4,500 daily calls with 125 full time staff and is the single point of phone contact for the Brisbane City Council.
The Call Centre is managed by Danny Keeble and a management team comprising team leaders, training and development officer and work unit consultative committee representatives. When I asked Ms Judith Dionysius, now Manager of Customer Service Integration for the BCC, what had been the greatest challenge to the project she pointed to the arduous task of getting information from 'heads and files into systems'. 'The next plateau of service delivery is the integration of workflow processes from end to end, in the never ending quest of improving customer services levels'.
Finally I want to thank The Lord Mayor Jim Soorley, BCC CEO Rob Carter, Judith Dionysius, Danny Keeble, Malcolm Angell, Paul Salvati for their time and helpfulness in answering all my questions.
Niels Kjellerup, July 9th 1998
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