In 25 years – through everything from flooded basements to a flooded city – Barbara Roberson has seen it all. Or at least, she’s heard about it. As an MSD Customer Relations Specialist, Roberson is often the first point of contact for customers in crisis, who call MSD with issues ranging from drainage problems to flooded basements.
“The Customer Relations department is vital because as the first point of contact, customers expect us to be the resource to resolve their problems,” she said.
Which can present a challenge during circumstances such as the recent heavy rains and the resulting flooding. February has turned out to be Louisville’s rainiest February on record in 135 years.
Calls into the MSD call center increased dramatically, and employees faced a high volume of requests from worried customers dealing with flood-related challenges. Nearly 2,500 called were logged into the center from February 22 to March 1. The center is staffed with 12 agents and two supervisors, who work from the MSD call center and are available to answer questions 24/7, 365 days a year.
Among the nearly 2,500 reasons for customer calls into the center:
• Sewer backups: 322
• Sewer cave-ins: 74
• Drainage problems: 331
“When the call center receives a customer’s call, our agents go into the database system to update the caller’s request,” Roberson said. “Depending on the extent of the request, we may utilize a mapping system called Upstream to verify addresses and locations of a caller’s service request.” Volume – both in calls and the sound within the call center -- can increase during a rain event, especially as agents reach out to provide information to another department.
Roberson said the key is to have a defined and consistent plan of action.
“As a customer service representative, we have to remain calm, to be understanding, and to be very empathetic as we’re speaking to a customer,” she said. “It’s our job to convey their concern as accurately as possible, to the department that will respond to it.”
Of course, even when not dealing with flooding, calls into the center can be … interesting. “We’ve heard everything from the customer that stuffed towels in the floor drain and covered them with a bowling ball to keep the water out, to the elderly customer who told me a story about nearly every job he’s had as he gave me a report of his basement flooding,” she said.
In the end, though, Roberson said much of the job’s reward comes from being able to help solve someone’s problem. “When you get a heartfelt ‘thank you’ from a customer, because you took the opportunity to go the extra mile for them by sharing a bit of information that may have helped their situation, that makes this job very gratifying,” she said.