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News : Columbia Contact Center Set to Handle Street and Sidewalk Concerns
Columbia, Sept 11, 2014 -- Denise Nichols has been involved with the city of Columbia’s Contact Center since its groundwork in 2013. On a regular week, the customer service representative takes about 30 calls a day about residents’ trash concerns.
Nichols said understanding how a department works has helped the center better understand customers and, in turn, help customers understand work the city government does.
"(Having) the knowledge going into this helps out because we are able to understand what we’re taking on, such as the container services, how they were set or how the drivers are dealing with that," she said.
Street and sidewalk concerns will soon be added to the list of issues that Nichols and her fellow customer service representatives will address once the Columbia City Council passes the budget for the 2015 fiscal year.
In addition to solid waste and recycling, the contact center is expected to handle customer concerns such as reporting of potholes, missing street signs, sidewalk maintenance and snow removal.
The city also proposes to have the center manage calls to the lobby of the Daniel Boone City Building, as well as walk-in visitors.
The plan calls for spending more on the center’s budget and hiring another customer service representative.
The center was set up based on citizen surveys in which some residents said they felt they were given the runaround when making calls to the city.
The center was created to condense and make customer experience more efficient, said Renee Graham, public communications city manager.
"Through training, we can make it a much more pleasant customer-focused, customer-minded experience. 'One-Call City Hall' – that is the ultimate goal. That’s going to take time," she said.
Graham said in the next two or three years, the city hopes to make it easier for people to get in touch with the right person.
When a resident calls, a customer service representative enters the information into customer relationship management software, which categorizes incidents as either requests for action or for information.
Requests for action are referred to the solid waste staff, while requests for information are handled by the center.
A similar configuration will also be set up for street and sidewalks concerns in early fiscal 2015, which begins Oct. 1.
The center plans to cover other departments or divisions over the next two or three years. The city also plans to create a self-service "One-Call City Hall" online portal to make it easier for residents to log in their questions or request for services.
"We have so many departments and so many processes," Graham said. "So we’re looking at where we can make the best impact first, and learn from those lessons."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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