Meet Brisbane Lord Mayor Jim Soorley on his mission to make Brisbane the most livable City in Australia.

As part of this study I wanted to interview the man, said by all, to be the inspirational source of the Brisbane City Council Call Centre - The Lord Mayor Jim Soorley. ( for more info)

We met in his office in the beautiful City Hall of Brisbane.

Question : How do you explain your personal interest in the BCC Call Centre?

JS : In my first days in office (1993) I was frustrated by phones ringing in the offices with no urgency to answer them. In fact on several occasions I ran from desk to desk answering calls after hours. I have a background as a salesman and the importance of the customer to the health of an organisation has always been central to my life. It was clear to me that our re-active approach to customer interaction had to be changed so we could be pro-active in fulfilling customer needs.

Question: Lots of politician talk this talk. But you seem to be walking the talk as well?

JS: I didn't want to be the head of an organisation with a dismal service delivery system. Our preliminary investigation revealed that response times varied from 1 day to 18 months with no performance standards. We found a Silo-effect (functional integrity, 'its not my table' syndrome) inhibiting inter-office co-ordination of service delivery. The lack of a structured approach was obvious; the BCC had more than 630 different phone numbers published leading to a virtual maze for customers. Today the BBC has one published phone number and aims to provide a one stop solution for our customers. We provide customer access 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.

Question: How did you manage to so completely change an old bureaucratic organisation in just 5 years ?

JS : We did not engage external consultants, instead we embarked on a minutely planned Change Management project using inside consultants in co-operation with the staff. In fact the BCC staff were as interested in improved service delivery, as we were; they just didn't know how to accomplish this in the old structure. I am a great believer in public organisations ability to deliver excellent customer service and don't subscribe to the miracle cure of privatisation. Our efforts have documented that Government (local, state & federal) can become customer focussed and use modern management principles & IT to deliver superior customer service.

Question: How did you accomplish the integration of the call centre with all the agencies & departments of the BCC ?

JS: As soon as the business case was ready, we simply took staff and resources out of every single department covered by the call centre activities in proportion to response needs. In fact the project led to a complete restructure of the BCC. This was possible because I kept the focus on the customer and how we could improve services.

Question: What issues are confronting the call centre today ?

JS: Calls are longer than expected, probably reflecting the fact that the customers have quite a few things they want to talk to us about, now that the phone-access has been established. Exceeding customer expectations is a very dynamic process. Our 'Local Laws Officers' now have computers in their cars, and receive messages directly from the call centres allowing quicker response times.

Question: You seem to have turned BCC into a corporation ?

JS: In fact that is exactly what we have done. Our new accrued accounting principles are revolutionary for government anywhere in Australia. We fully fund depreciation of assets and our Annual corporate plan is linked to the budget, item by item and aligned with the entire organisation.We take our Community Service Obligation seriously, and realise that only a streamlined customer focussed organisation is capable of continual improvements. I hope the Brisbane City Council can become a model for advanced customer service and counter the current Federal (Australia) fad of privatising customer service delivery. I see this as a failure to deliver on Community Service Obligation.

Question: Finally what is Brisbane City Enterprises (BCE)?

JS: This is an independent consulting business wholly owned by BCC. BCE was setup to provide specialist City and Urban management expertise to clients in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.

 

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