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News : End of Line for Grafton Taxi's Phone Operators
Feb 6, 2014 -- It was difficult holding a conversation with Grafton Taxis base operator Kathleen Porteus on Tuesday.
Sitting in the Grafton office, pen in hand, Ms Porteus described how Grafton Taxis had reached the end of an era.
"At 10.30am, we will switch over to a new system, which..."
The phone rings and cuts short our conversation.
"Hello, Grafton Taxis," Ms Porteus says - and it's not hard to tell she's said those three words a million times. She takes the address of the customer and scribbles notes onto the chart in front of her.
She holds down the microphone button to her right and calls the taxi at the front of the rank in Pound St, Grafton. She conveys the address and makes a note of the time. Then she returns to our conversation.
"Our old radio system has become defunct," she said. They are now using computer terminals in the taxi cars and calls will be directed to a call centre in Coffs Harbour."
The call centre is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week and callers speak to an operator, not an automated voice recording.
When the old radio base wasn't manned a switch was flicked and calls would go straight to the taxi cars. Now, all calls, will go to the call centre.
Ms Porteus has worked at the base since 1997. She is one of four women who operate the Grafton Taxi Base with some employed for more than three decades.
"Dawn has been here at least 35 years, Narelle has been doing it since about '94, and Sally started in about 2000," Ms Porteus said. "Back then we used to drive taxis so it was handy to have people who knew the game and knew the area like the back of their hands to be up here in the office."
On an average day Ms Porteus fields between 150 and 450 calls.
"The new system will ask a lot more information from customers when booking their taxi," she said. From their destination, their name, method of payment, number of passengers, all that. All these questions are designed to cut down the amount of time it takes the taxi to pick them up. The new system will register your details the first time you call."
"It also has a call-back facility so you could get a text on your mobile to tell you that your taxi is ready and out the front waiting."
While Ms Porteus acknowledged the new system may cause some initial confusion, she said there was no need to worry.
"We have a few customers who would ring up and they wouldn't even have to tell us their address because we recognised their voice and we knew where they lived," she said.
"The new system will take a little while for us and for our customers to get used to but we will be offering a much better service in the long run."
Grafton Taxis vice-president Peter Porteus said some of the staff in the Coffs Harbour call centre were from Grafton.
"They will get to know our customers just as we do," he said. "It'll still be the same drivers in the taxis and we still know every nook and cranny of the area, it's just a more efficient way of ordering a taxi."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Today's Tip of the Day - Consultancy Advice
Published: Monday, February 10, 2014