If you think a business employing 100 people doesn’t need a call centre, think again. “If we don’t have a phone system in place, we’re not in business,” says Keith Cairns (pictured), head of group finance at A1 Waste. With a company that puts its ad near the front of the Golden Pages, A1 Waste relies on the telephone as its prime source of business.
“We have an online ordering system in place these days. However, 99pc of our clients will chose to contact us by telephone,” says Cairns. “If we miss that call, then we may lose that business.”
Based in Dublin, the company is one of the better-known waste services operations in the city. Its main line of business is builders’ waste, or ‘construction and demolition’ waste, as it is known in the business. The company caters for jobs ranging from the average house extension right up to commercial developments. It also has a commercial waste operation. With a shortage of licensed landfills in the area, it has opened a recovery centre, where waste is processed and sold on for other uses. The company now has over 2,000 skips and 80 lorries in operation. It operates from three locations: two waste centres in Sheriff Street and Greenhills and a company head office in Tallaght. It now employs in excess of 100 people.
According to Cairns, A1’s decision to upgrade its telephone system came at the time the company chose to relocate its headquarters. “We were operating from a series of portakabins in Greenhills. We did have an older phone system there. While there was nothing wrong with it in terms of what it was designed to do, we knew we’d need something more for what we wanted to do,” he says.
The company had a very clear idea of what it wanted to provide on the customer service front and saw the occasion of moving to its new 8,000sq ft office in Tallaght as the ideal opportunity for implementation.
“Essentially, what we were looking for was a phone system that would act as a mini call centre,” says Cairns. With this in mind, the company entrusted consultant Guy Johnson with the task of recommending a system that would be best suited for their needs.
What the company ended up opting for was a system from Nortel Networks, a company that has of late been putting much of its energy behind tailoring systems for small to medium-sized enterprises. The system was bought through SP Networks, an accredited agent for Nortel in Ireland. SP Networks was responsible for the installation of the system and handles all technical support.
The new system has been in place at A1 Waste for two years now. According to Cairns, the installation went quite smoothly. “They were there on site for a couple of weeks, which wasn’t really a problem since it was a greenfield situation in our case,” he says.
For an investment in the region of £45k to £50k, Cairns felt that the company has got its money’s worth. “Increased efficiency was a great concern at the time. Nowadays, we don’t even need a switch. All calls go directly through to the call centre,” he says.
With a huge range of clients that encompasses small builders and big developers, the system is able to route calls more intelligently to the person best suited for dealing with the caller. According to Cairns, the company simultaneously upgraded its skip ordering system. Nowadays, while a person takes a call they are already inputting the details into the system in order to enable a faster processing of the transaction.
Monitoring functions were also something A1 Waste was keen on acquiring and the new system provides the information it’s looking for. “We wanted to know how many calls there were, how long the calls took, how many people hung up before getting an answer,” says Cairns. Armed with information such as this, the company felt it would be able to refine its customer service strategy further.
Cairns is happy about the progress the company has made. “We’re actually getting fewer calls these days, but have a higher volume of sales,” he says. “This means we’re concluding more transactions with just one call.”
By Dick O’Brien