Customer Service Centers Going Strong After Ten Years
Call almost any large company and you’ll hear the same thing – a recorded voice telling you which buttons to push to get more recorded voices.
Not at MoDOT, though. Our customer service lines are answered by actual people! Our agency is providing a level of customer service that most organizations can only dream of, thanks to our customer service centers. This month they celebrate their tenth anniversary.
At each district office as well as the Central Office, a team of reps is always standing by to handle calls live, as well as provide quick response to customer e-mails or in-person customers. These 34 folks are MoDOT’s front line – the people the public talks to when they need us.
“Our customer service centers are absolutely critical to our success,” said MoDOT Director Pete Rahn. “One of our department’s values is to be responsive and courteous. The customer service representatives are the first point of contact for many of our customers, so the first impression they give, and results they deliver, can make or break us. I’m pleased to say they’re doing a great job!”
The idea of a toll free number – 888-ASK-MODOT -- is considered routine at the department now, but tying a statewide agency together with one easy to use number throughout the state was a leading edge idea when it was first implemented ten years ago. “We’re the first department of transportation nationally to provide this service,” Chief Engineer Joe Mickes said when announcing the new service back in 1996. “Our goal is to provide a one-stop approach with limited transfers and holding. Most questions can be immediately answered, and those that can’t will be handled as quickly as possible.”
Ten years later that’s still the goal. In fact, more than 90 percent of all questions to the customer service centers are answered within 24 hours.
Using phone technology, calls to the toll-free number are automatically routed to the nearest district center, so representatives familiar with the caller’s area can answer questions.
Customer service representatives are specially chosen and trained as experts in department operations, as well as how to treat the public well. “Our representatives constantly impress me with how much they know about the department, and how well they can explain it to the public,” said Kristin Gerber, who manages the District 5 Customer Service Center. “And the public feels the same way. Callers who take a survey after their call rate our reps with a satisfaction level of nearly 100 percent.”
And they handle a lot of calls. Over the past year customer service representatives fielded more than 360,000 calls and other public contacts. “It’s especially busy when the weather is bad,” said District 1 Customer Service Representative Connie Hale. “When the roads are snow-covered the phone rings constantly, wondering how the roads are and when we’re going to plow theirs. I’m glad, though, that so many people use our toll-free number when they need this information.”
Another important component of customer service centers is data collection. Through the customer service database, created especially for these centers ten years ago, representatives can enter information from customer calls to make sure all questions are routed to the right person and track when each customer request is completed.
“We measure how long it takes to respond to customers, and how long it takes to complete their requests,” said Marisa Brown, who manages the District 3 Customer Service Center. “Using the database, we can make sure we’re providing great service.”
The role of a customer service representative has evolved over the years. While responding to calls remains an important part of the job, they now serve customers in a much greater capacity through coordination and organization of public meetings, initiating updates on projects, groundbreaking and ribbon cutting ceremonies, database development and website updates.
“Customer service is not just about reacting and responding to the customer anymore,” Brown said. “It's also about getting them information before they feel the need to call us.”