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