Centralized call centre approach pays off for Halton

Citizen satisfaction with Halton region’s call centre is remarkably high – and the municipality ascribes that to its centralized, coordinated, and consistent approach to customer service.

The region’s call centre – dubbed Access Halton – has been ranked among the top five per cent for citizen satisfaction in an independent study by Vernon, B.C.-based Service Quality Measurement Group (SQM). The study, SQM says, represents all call centres in Canada and the U.S.

Halton serves more than 400,000 residents in the City of Burlington and the towns of Halton Hills, Milton and Oakville. Organizations polled by SQM, include banks, telecommunications and utilities providers, and retailers.

The survey reports citizen satisfaction for calls handled by Access Halton at 83 per cent, earning Halton Region the surveyor’s title of “world-class” service.

But that’s a far cry from the situation just a few years ago.

According to the municipality, not so long ago there was no consistency in the way customer service requests were handled by Halton’s 35 departments.

Citizens with a service inquiry had to choose between 35 different telephone contact numbers, and had no way of knowing which department (or which of the 1,700 employees) the inquiry would end up with.

“We have completely reinvented how we deliver first point of customer service,” said Kate Johnston, corporate projects consultant, Halton Region. She said the municipality has “moved from an informal approach” in which each division functioned as an entity into itself, to “a coordinated consistent and centralized approach.”

Halton’s goal was to simplify access across multiple channels, deliver consistent, efficient service, and monitor performance.

The process involved clearly documenting how calls are handled, putting sophisticated CRM technology in place, investing in staff training and making customer service a corporate priority, Johnston said.

Johnston said the municipality feels vindicated with the SQM survey results. “It demonstrates that our approach and commitment to service delivery improvements have in fact worked and the citizen is benefiting from a more efficient and effective government.”

Access Halton is based on Siebel Systems, Inc.’s Public Sector. The new system, the municipality says, allows it to effectively and accurately field up to 20,000 monthly inquiries regarding regional programs and services.

Halton owes much of its success to the capabilities of the Siebel Public Sector product, according to Johnston.

It provides staff with access to information and capabilities that enable them to handle calls accurately, consistently and quickly, she said.

Now Halton provides cost-effective, high-quality programs and services, including water and wastewater, regional roads and planning, ambulance, waste management, and public health, the municipality said in a statement.

Halton reported Public Sector deployed to 145 staff to support Access Halton.

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