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News : Citizen Contact Centre a Success: Olinger
Grande Prairie, AB, Jan 19, 2015 -- Two months and 7,046 calls after the launch of the City of Grande Prairie’s citizen contact centre, communications manager David Olinger is prepared to call it a success.
The new front-end communications centre has been handling resident concerns and forwarding calls to several city departments since Nov. 10.
That first week, the centre launched amid the first large snowstorm of the season and immediately began taking calls for the transportation services department.
"It quickly became evident this was going to be a boon to our organization," Olinger said.
The new front-line call takers handled the inundation of resident inquiries and grievances, which would have normally bogged down the department already trying to deal with snow clearing.
"There were lots of inquiries around the windrow program, lots of inquiries around snow removal," Olinger said. "It was good timing to have the contact centre introduced."
Transportation manager Robert Carroll said the biggest change for his department was call volume.
"The contact centre is diverting probably 80% of the calls," he said.
There were approximately 4,000 calls handled by the centre between its launch and the middle of December, according to Olinger.
Since opening, there have also been more than 2,000 service requests handled through the centre.
The reduced call volume at transportation services has allowed Carroll to be attentive to other parts of his operation.
"With the new snow removal policy this year it requires us to be in the field to keep things running smoothly on that end, and we are able to do that because we aren’t answering phones," Carroll said. "There is a higher level of training and familiarization so calls can be resolved either at the contact centre or with my administration, and that allows me to be out in the field."
It has also allowed Carroll to be proactive in providing communications staff with snow-clearing updates daily, all of which end up on the city’s website.
Olinger said that over time, one metric of success would be increased web traffic.
"We want people to go to the website more and more, so any time we get the opportunity, (call takers) tell folks how to find things on the website," he said.
The contact centre is open between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday to Friday. Olinger said peak times are between 10 a.m. and noon.
Contact centre staff had a full week of training, are armed with quick reference manuals for common questions, and are able to contact other department staff quickly to get answers for people.
So far, the centre manages calls for the transportation department, transit, the mayor’s office and enforcement services.
"It’s relieved a lot of bottlenecks," Olinger said.
"The mayor’s office is getting only the calls they should be," he said, adding that most people trying to contact the mayor in the past could be helped at a more appropriate level.
For enforcement services, the contact centre also has the ability to instantly forward emergent issues straight to bylaw officers.
Other departments will be added to the contact center’s responsibilities in the coming months.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About City of Grande Prairie:
Grande Prairie is a city in northwest Alberta, Canada within the southern portion of an area known as Peace River Country. It is located at the intersection of Highway 43 and Highway 40, approximately 456 km northwest of Edmonton.
Published: Wednesday, January 21, 2015