Diana Gale, Director of Seattle Solid Waste Utility
John Anthony, Director of Customer Service of Seattle Solid Waste Utility Date:
March 5, 2013
Recommendation to Change Customer Service of Seattle Solid Waste Utility Introduction
As pursuant to your request, the purpose of this memorandum is to detail the changes in the Seattle Solid Waste Utility’s (SWU) Customer Service office to make SWU customer friendly and improve the Customer Service office overall. Criteria
The following criteria are necessary to achieve a successful outcome when addressing and solving the problems through the proposed alternatives. The problems of this case are interdependent involving many issues. Accordingly, the criteria are also interwoven and will be attained with a successful implementation of each alternative. 1. Become efficient at customer service
2. Increase staff morale
3. Lay the ground work to implement Mayor Charles Royer’s recycle program Background
The purpose of this section is to provide the context of problems that have been identified in SWU’s Customer Service office since I have been assigned as the Director of the Customer Service office. As you read this, refer to the timeline in Attachment 1.
In November 1985 there was a discovery of methane gas buildup in twelve homes near the City’s two landfills; accordingly, the homes were evacuated and the landfills were closed. After the closure, the City had no place to process its solid waste; however, through a negotiation process with King County, the City was able to find a place to process its solid waste for a period of two years in the County’s landfill. The two year period is the timeframe for the City to develop an alternative disposal option for its solid waste.
Due to the cost of closing the landfills compounded with the cost of using the County’s landfill, the City Council voted to raise the service rates for customers to process their solid waste. These increases went into effect on August 1, 1986. This rate increase was about 65% from the baseline price of $11.85. The total cost increase was about $8.00 ($11.85*.65=$19.55). In addition, by October 1986, customers’ rates were raised by another 15%. The total cost for customers to throw away their trash in October 1986 was $22.45. This is assuming that the baseline price of the two-can rate before the rate increase was $11.85.
There was no communication with the customers about the rate increase and about their service changes. For instance, prior to the November 1985 crisis, the customers who had signed up for disposing two garbage cans plus two bags for $11.85 were automatically charged the four-can rate of $21.75 after the crisis. In a short period, for 138,000 customers, the service rate of disposing of their solid waste had doubled.
These changes left customers frustrated, and complaints started pouring into the SWU’s Customer Service office, which was not equipped to handle the workload. According to Liz Kain, the lead Customer Service Representative (CSR), the department had a total of six CSRs with six phone lines. The CSRs divided the workload in two groups. While three CSRs handled customer calls, the other three, “filled out or filed billing or service change forms.” These jobs were rotated between the CSRs, until the rate increases in August 1986.
However, after the August 1986 rate increases, irate customers started calling to complain and/or have their service downgraded. The six phone lines rang nonstop and all six CSRs were consistently busy handling customer complaints. Meanwhile, the paperwork, the other portion of CSRs’ duties, was being processed at much slower rate. This meant that the CSRs were not able to process customers’ complaints effectively and consistently. Accordingly, customers called over and over and often to different agencies with the same complaints, creating a delicate...
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