A Day in the Life: CharMeck 311 Call Center

Summer intern, Jake Dube’s adventure continues! Last week he was with CharMeck 311, sitting in with customer service representatives (CSR). Employees of 311 may not be Charlotte Water employees, but they do work for the City. In fact, of all phone calls at 311, 45% of them are Charlotte Water related. Come and join Jake on his day in the life of a 311 CSR.

I drive north and I pull into the large parking lot of 311. I find the lobby and wait for Dee Crayton, the program manager.

She tells me that 311 handles over a million calls every year. 450,000 of those are Charlotte Water related. These calls can consist of high water bills, reporting a leak, and everything else in between.

Dee explains the rigorous training CSR’s undergo before answering calls. First, the 12-14 week training period where you learn the call system and applications (Since they handle calls for both City and County, there are TONS of applications). To start, you learn two, then as time goes on, you take training courses for more applications and eventually become a “generalist” CSR.

After training, they are still not ready for the floor. They work in the “nesting pod”. This is where the small group starts answering calls in a controlled environment with close supervision. This period goes for 60 days. Once complete, they are ready for the floor.

After the tour, we take a seat in Dee’s office. She settles in and gives her email a quick glance. She turns away from her screen and gives me the rundown of my day. I get my own headset and go out onto the floor and sit down with CSR, LeNette Harrison.

LeNette answers utilities and Tax calls. The majority of her calls are about Charlotte Water. LeNette was kind and informative as I sat with her. I had so many questions but it was hard to squeeze any in because she was constantly answering calls. Since I can’t ask questions, I listen.

I am amazed by her multitasking. After each call ends, the CSR must log it. This log contains the subject and end result of the call. Every time LeNette ends a call she would immediately be connected to the next call. While answering that call, she was finishing the log for the previous one at the same time. It was impressive.

Next, I moved to generalist CSR: Julian Campbell. Julian has been with 311 for five years. Just looking at his desktop monitors gave me anxiety. He has so many different applications open at once so he can find the information needed no matter the call.

Julian handled calls ranging from Property disputes, bulky item pickups, and even high water bills. Remember my article on Bobby Sloan? When he investigates a high water bill, this is where it can start.

Julian’s knowledge was immense. Try and find someone who has more knowledge about Charlotte Mecklenburg overall than a CSR generalist. Can’t? I’m not surprised. That’s because they know all the services the city and county provide.

Days get busy at 311. At this point, there were between 20-40 callers on hold. CSR’s don’t ever rush a caller off the line, but they don’t like callers to sit on hold for too long.

Julian answered calls all the way to lunch. Some were easy and quick, and others were complicated. No matter what, Julian was thanked for his ability to help. Once he finished his last call, he switched his status to lunch break and went to eat.

I sit with my last CSR, Mozelle Bryant. Mozelle only chews Extra gum (Spearmint of course) and has since grade school. She’s been with 311 for over 10 years and is a generalist, like Julian. She offered me a stick of gum, then got to work.

Luckily while sitting with her, calls were not backed up like earlier. I take this time to ask questions about being a CSR. Mozelle says with a laugh that there is never a dull moment during her day. Things can pick up in the office and you won’t be able to put the headset down till quitting time. Especially as a generalist, you can go from answering questions about a water bill to then contacting animal control about a stray dog. Never a dull moment she says again as a call connects.

Before I know it, I look at the clock and realize it’s the end of my day. I thanked everyone who let me join them as I leave. I popped into Dee’s office to write a thank you note, then grab my bag and head home.

I gained so much respect for the job. All CSR’s are very knowledgeable and handle problems all day to find the help callers need.

The biggest takeaway that I had from this day was that all the employees; from the supervisors to CSR’s care. They are a resource to help the citizens of Charlotte-Mecklenburg and want there to be resolution to any callers issue. They are good at what they do, plain and simple.

It was a pleasure to sit in and watch them work. I learned so much about Charlotte Water and even more about the services the City provides.

A big Thank you again to Dee Crayton and everyone that I sat with! I had a blast.

Make sure you stay connected and follow Charlotte Water on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube to stay up to date on all the great work Charlotte Water is doing! Keep on the lookout for my next installment of ‘A Day in the Life’!

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