A hub of communication
Since its launch on November 20, a total of 4950 customers have downloaded T&TEC’s mobile app and a monthly average of 10,000 customers have used the upgraded Interactive Voice Response (IVR) at the newly established Distribution Control Centre. These are promising results, following the Commission’s decision to establish an in-house call centre and to adopt an Outage Management System (OMS).
Farrell Christopher, Senior Analyst, Distribution Planning and Support, who is responsible for the operational aspect of the Distribution Control Centre, which includes the Distribution Call Centre (Call Centre) and Distribution Control, said that customers are seeing, and have expressed appreciation for the benefits of the system that was specifically designed to improve their communication experiences with the Commission. In the short time since launch, the prompt response to reports made through the smartphone application and an increased call answer rate on 800-BULB have elicited a steady stream of positive feedback regarding the Commission’s timely response to issues. Lessons have also been learned, including the importance of gathering thorough information, as well as a greater appreciation for customer service.
Mr. Christopher cited the co-ordination between the Areas and the Call Centre as a major component of the project’s success. Call Centre Trouble Report Dispatcher IIs rely on their Telecomm Operator counterparts in the Distribution Areas for credible information and regular updates from the crew to quickly provide feedback to customers. Within minutes of a call, the Dispatchers at the Stanley P. Ottley hub can advise on the status of the crew and give a good estimate as to when electricity is expected to be restored, such is the quick flow of information between hundreds of customers and the centrally-located Call Centre. Assisting with internal information flows, especially with the Distribution Areas, is Karimah Ali, an Engineer I who has worked in the Distribution Division. Supported by two clerks, Ms Ali co-ordinates and provides direction for requests outside of the remit of the Dispatchers, such as for customers who may have been disconnected.
Operating on a 24/7 basis, the Dispatchers combine people skills and technology to efficiently field calls and answer texts in three shifts. Surrounded by several 28-inch computer screens which they monitor constantly for incoming calls, messages, alerts on street and infrastructure maps and updates on crews’ status, they also deftly juggle phone calls—delivering answers in measured tones—responses to voice mail messages and logging reports from, and texting responses to, customers via the app. They also man the mobile hotline which is activated for short periods such as during Carnival and SEA. While most calls and texts cover typical reports of outages and other issues such as malfunctioning street lights, a few of them can be challenging. This can come in the form of abusive callers who demand instant results, or an unusually large volume of calls of more than 1500 in one shift , typically triggered by an unplanned outage. If the phone is not answered in 30 seconds, the call is transferred to the emergency section in the respective Distribution Area or to voice mail. Any customer who leaves a voice mail receives a follow-up call within one hour from the Call Centre. For quality control, all calls are recorded.
Through a pilot project, Distribution Central’s customers have the added benefit of the enhanced Interactive Voice Response system, which gives the option of reporting outages and other issues using the automated system. Using caller ID technology, the system will recognise a phone number tied to an account or, if the number is different, will allow the customer to enter a related meter or account number for which the report is being made. By following a series of prompts, the caller can provide additional details such as the apparent cause of the outage, or request a call back on restoration. The outcome of this pilot will provide invaluable information to refine the system as it is rolled out during the course of the year to other Distribution Areas, Mr Christopher said. Should they wish, customers can also speak to an operator for emergency issues.
In such cases, the professional responses of the officers at the Call Centre reflect the knowledge and confidence acquired from attending an intensive two-week training programme, as well as natural aptitude for customer service. The training covered practical aspects such as customer contact and the IVR system, included a ride along with an emergency crew, a two-day assignment with Telecom Operators at Distribution Areas, an introduction to the T&TEC electrical system and an understanding of the customer information system, Ventyx.
Despite some of the challenges, Dispatchers still value the satisfaction of interacting with customers, particularly, as Ming-Lee Brisbane, Dispatcher II shared, “people are happy to talk to a human [especially] when we call them back or when we answer their e-mail or texts”.
Call Centre Dispatchers on duty