With the herculean task of making sure the city’s waste is disposed of in a customer friendly and responsible way, Auckland Council’s Waste Solutions team keeps the city clean and well run.
The team is responsible for 500,000 weekly waste collections, not to mention recycling, inorganic collections and soon food scraps. By fully embracing Buzz Channel’s Council CX programme, adopting a collaborative approach and putting good systems in place to act efficiently and effectively, they’ve achieved fantastic results, particularly in the past six months.
Collaborative customer focused culture
It’s a complex business unit, with a number of external contractors who actually collect the waste, massive operational complexity (different areas of the city have waste collected in different ways) and huge customer volumes – all leading to high volumes of service requests.
The team in charge say within the past six months the organisation has cemented a strong customer focus; setting clear objectives, and fully resourcing the team.
Waste Solutions have fully engaged with the CX programme. By using the real-time dashboard reporting, drilling down to read specific customer stories and sharing the feedback broadly across their teams, they’ve reduced siloes.
Smart solutions for improved customer satisfaction
In the past six months Waste Solutions have taken customer satisfaction ratings from 59% (March 2019) to 75% (September 2019) and they continue to focus on ways to improve.
In particular, the team now clearly understands where resources are best allocated. This has allowed Waste Solutions to implement an automated bot to deal with the large number of service requests that just relate to bins, for example new bins, or a missed bin collection. These requests are simple but time consuming. The automated bot checks the job details are correct and then automatically sends a job number and request to the contractor. Soon the bot will also have the ability to close the job and send an automated text message to the customer. The team says automating this task, which will also include illegal dumping, is hugely beneficial as it frees up considerable amounts of staff time. Those team members can now deal with more complex process issues.
For instance, the team now have more time to regularly review the customer feedback and take action. The Waste Contracts and Compliance Team Leader said he reads through all the feedback and is now able to identify simple changes. He initially made process changes with one of his teams and then rolled these changes out to other teams across the Auckland region.
For example, in response to complaints in relation to illegal dumping, Waste Solutions have changed their process. Previously if a contractor responded to a report of illegal dumping but couldn’t find the dumped rubbish, they would close the job assuming it had resolved itself. However, now if they can’t locate the rubbish, they call the customer and don’t close the job until they have satisfactorily resolved the issue from the customers perspective.
Deep understanding of the issues
By regularly taking a deep dive into the verbatim feedback, Waste Solutions management are developing a clear understanding of exactly what the issues are. They’re collating common themes and highlighting trends and sharing these regularly with their teams. They’re constantly refining and improving, taking 2-3 suggestions regularly and acting on those, then moving onto the next ones.
This process of refining and focusing on improvement, along with the success they’ve had so far is motivating staff, whereas previously the negative feedback had a demotivating effect. Says Waste Contracts and Compliance Lead “The majority of our customers are happy, but we’re chasing the 5% who might have missed a service but are very vocal.”
Informing the wider organisation
The whole organisation is becoming more responsive because of the findings from the customer feedback and the improvements they’re sparking. For example, Waste Solutions are working closely with the Customer Services team to improve customer data quality. Getting an address right is vital to enabling contractors to action customer requests in a timely and efficient manner. Being able to trace a customer complaint to a mix up with addresses (same street name, wrong side of the city for example) has prompted a new process for call centre staff to pinpoint addresses more accurately so teams can get it right first time.
Issues highlighted by customer feedback are also helping deal with contractors more effectively. For example, by looking at common complaints around bin tags, audits were taken of bin sweeping to identify issues. As a result, new contracts were drawn up with KPI’s directly relating to contractors successfully collecting bins with the right tag. This is providing clarity around customer expectations and preventing loss of revenue for council whereby customers were using the cheaper priced tags for larger bins.
Customer stories are key
Waste Solutions Management say the programme has helped them drive improvements as a direct result of customer feedback. They can effectively compare different areas of the city, share learnings of successfully implemented changes and continue to act quickly to make improvements based on customer feedback.
“We have noticed a big improvement which we directly attribute to us being fully on board with the CX programme. I can now clearly understand exactly what the issues are and feel confident that we have a clear process for working towards even better customer satisfaction scores.” Auckland Council Customer Enhancement Manager.
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