En­gag­ing award for car­ing call team

Auckland City Harbour News - - News - By Jo­ce­lyn Rein

When call cen­tre worker Raema Keenan starts her day she never knows what to ex­pect.

Her first call might be a do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in­ci­dent, a child who has run away from home or a mother in de­spair with an an­gry teenager.

Each case is dif­fer­ent and it takes all Ms Keenan’s so­cial work skills to deal with dis­tressed and frus­trated call­ers.

The way that she and team­mates at the Child Youth and Fam­ily call cen­tre deal with th­ese calls has earned them the ti­tle of best large call cen­tre in the coun­try.

Judges at the an­nual Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Users As­so­ci­a­tion of New Zealand awards were blown away by the pas­sion and en­thu­si­asm of the staff and the use of in­no­va­tive new prac­tices.

Call cen­tre man­ager Greg Ver­salko says the se­cret is un­der­stand­ing their core re­spon­si­bil­i­ties such as an­swer­ing phones and a high level of com­pe­tence.

Since Mr Ver­salko started three years ago, the call cen­tre has been turned around.

The av­er­age wait­ing time dur­ing their busy pe­ri­ods has dropped from 45 min­utes to un­der 20 sec­onds.

He’s try­ing to change the pub­lic’s im­age of Child Youth and Fam­ily.

“For many years we were seen as the am­bu­lance at the bot­tom of the cliff. Now we want to be proac­tive too.”

Ms Keenan has worked at the call cen­tre for four years and says it’s good to know they’re among the best.

She puts their suc­cess down to a sense of pride.

“Here, ev­ery­one’s walk­ing in the same di­rec­tion.

“We take pride in an­swer­ing as many calls as we pos­si­bly can.”

Mr Ver­salko says there’s def­i­nitely a pas­sion in the group.

“It’s healthy and it seems to be con­ta­gious as well.”

This means be­tween 98 and 100 per­cent of the 4000 calls re­ceived ev­ery day are an­swered.

Ms Keenan works the night shift and says the calls she gets are of­ten emer­gen­cies to which she will send a front­line so­cial worker.

But she says the lack of re­sources can be frus­trat­ing.

“What’s an emer­gency to the caller doesn’t al­ways qual­ify as an emer­gency to us.

“We’ll have a par­ent tear­ing their hair out with their teenager and there’s noth­ing we can do.”

Th­ese sit­u­a­tions are cer­tainly noth­ing new to Ms Keenan, who has been in­volved in so­cial work in one way or an­other for more than 30 years as both a so­cial worker and a CYF care­giver for more than 30 chil­dren.

She says see­ing the sit­u­a­tion from both sides, as a worker and a carer, helps her re­late to her call­ers.

The un­pre­dictabil­ity of her job is what makes it spe­cial, she says.

“When you an­swer the phone at work, you know it’s not go­ing to be just an or­di­nary phone call. It could be any­thing.

“You have to prob­lem-solve and get on board.

“It’s def­i­nitely not bor­ing,” Ms Keenan says.

She uses all her skills ev­ery day to adapt to dif­fer­ent peo­ple’s needs and says some­times the most im­por­tant thing is be­ing able to re­ally lis­ten in­stead of just writ­ing notes.

“There are a lot of peo­ple out there who just need an ear to lis­ten.”

But she says there are also nights at the other end of the scale.

“Some­times you end up with one crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion af­ter an­other. It does test us to the lim­its.

“Some­times you can tear your hair out but some­times I think maybe we can make a dif­fer­ence.”

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Good call: Raema Keenan says so­cial work is a pas­sion for the staff at the Child Youth and Fam­ily call cen­tre.

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