The faces behind the phones

Wed 27 Apr 2022

Contact Centre staff at work

If you’ve ever called us, then you will probably have spoken to one of our contact centre team.

Fielding up to 400 calls a day, (hitting over 600 during recent storms), they’re the friendly voices you hear, putting your mind at ease if you’re reporting a repair or trying to find an answer to your queries.

But what is the job really like, what type of calls do they get, and who are the people behind the headsets? We went to find out.

Ben, Rhian, Olivia, Louise and team leader, Candice are all busy chatting away on the phone when we arrive at their office. They are just five of the 17-strong team of contact centre advisors here at Tai Tarian, with the rest taking your calls whilst working from home.

In between calls, Candice gives us a quick round-up of what the team do:
“We’re the first point of contact when people call Tai Tarian. It’s important we know exactly what’s going on in the organisation as we could be asked anything.

“We liaise with our planners to organise appointments for our trades to carry out repairs, we also answer queries about rent, tenancies or applying for housing. We could be talking to tenants about anything.”

Rhian, who is the longest serving member of the team, with 12 years experience adds: “We do try and give first-time fixes over the phone. If there’s a simple fix we can talk them through that gets things sorted quickly and without the need to have someone go out to them, then that’s great.

“But to do that we have to get as much information about the problem as we can. That also helps us determine if the job is an emergency that requires an immediate response, or if we can class it as urgent or even non-urgent. We have to ask a lot of questions."

Olivia adds: “Although we do have a guide as to what to ask, we know that every call is personal, and we have to be flexible in responding to the needs of the caller.”

So, what makes a good customer service advisor? Candice explains:
“I look for someone with a background in customer services. They need to be compassionate, be a good listener, empathetic and have a bit of a personality.”

“Liking a good chat is also important” adds Ben. “I love talking to our callers and just having a good natter with them. By the time I’ve finished, we’ve had a moan about the weather and I’ve sorted their query. We are all local, so we have the same mentality and same humour as our callers and so I find it very easy to talk to them.

“Having said that though, it’s also important to adapt your approach depending on who is on the other end of the line. Sometimes, we’re the only person the caller will speak to all day, so there is a big responsibility in making sure you’re being friendly and trying your best to help them.”

New starters get up to four weeks training, shadowing more experienced colleagues before taking on calls themselves. Louise recalls the first time she fielded a call by herself:
“I was terrified when the phone rang, hoping I’d remember my training and that it wouldn’t be too difficult a call. Even though it was a relatively straight forward query, I knew that I had my team around me to help if I needed it and that I could just put the caller on hold whilst I found out the correct information for them.”

Olivia adds:
“Helping each other out is important. We’re a really close team and we do rely on each other for support. This was difficult when we were all working from home during the height of the pandemic, but we made it work and now we get to spend a bit more time in the office with each other, which is great.”

That support is extremely important when callers get angry or even abusive. Candice said:
“Unfortunately, we do get calls which can be quite upsetting.

“Whatever the caller’s frustration is, we are here to try and help and not to be shouted at.

“We all live in the same communities as our callers, we may pass each other in the street or in the shops, our children may go to the same schools, we are just ordinary people like them and just ask for a little understanding when we are trying to help as best as we can and don’t deserve some of the verbal abuse we receive."

Although there can be some unpleasant calls, there are some lighter moments too. Ben recalls a tenant calling in to report that, somehow, a seagull had become trapped behind their kitchen cupboards.

“No-one had any idea how it got there, but obviously we had to get it out. We sent a carpenter straight away who had to take out the units to free the bird. I’m pleased to say there was a happy ending and it was released unharmed.”

The final word goes to Candice:
“On the whole, working in the contact centre is very worthwhile. Knowing you can help people who need it and that you can make their day that little bit better is very rewarding. If they put the phone down knowing that we’ve helped them in some way, then that’s all that matters.”

With that, it’s back on with the headset and to take the next call of the day – whatever it will entail. Over the next couple of months there will be more ways for you to reach us like live chat on our website.