Palmerston North City and Horizons Regional Councils were joint recipients of the Initiative of the Year award at Friday night’s Manawatu Contact Centre Awards.
The award recognised the efforts of the two Councils in establishing a 120 seat call centre to receive and process Red Cross missing person enquiries in the wake of the February 2011 Canterbury earthquake.
Horizons accepted a request to provide the service and teamed up with Palmerston North City Council and established a 90 seat call centre, across three sites within three hours of receiving the call for assistance. This request came at a time when PNCC was already taking calls for Christchurch City Council and Horizons was supporting and Emergency Management response to the earthquake. As call volumes grew, the call centre was expanded to 120 seats.
Heading up the operation were Mike Manson from Palmerston North City Council and Craig Grant from Horizons Regional Council.
“We’re thrilled to receive this award which recognises the efforts of the many volunteers who helped on the phones, the staff from both Councils who juggled their workload to help out wherever possible, and shows the rest of New Zealand what we can do here in Palmerston North,” said Mr Manson.
“We couldn’t have put the Call Centre together so quickly without the facilities of the One for All Call Centre, and we thank Anne Stitchbury and her team for the professional assistance they provided at incredibly short notice.”
Craig Grant acknowledged the community support in manning the call centre.
“It takes a lot of people to man a call centre of this size 24/7 and we couldn’t have done it without the help of the public, not only in Palmerston North but also those who travelled from as far away as Wanganui to lend their support,” said Mr Grant.
“Staff and volunteers worked tirelessly and they should reflect with pride on the important role they played in helping Canterbury.”
When Horizons joined forces with PNCC to establish an emergency call for the Christchurch earthquake centre to handle missing person enquiries for the Red Cross, their achievement was quite remarkable.
Many of you here in the Manawatu possibly already know the story, but within only a few hours, Mike Manson of Palmerston North City Council and Craig Grant of Horizons Regional Council were able to “cobble together” a fully networked call centre of 120 seats, across three sites which handled up to 600 calls per hour in peak periods, over a span of three weeks.
Equipping the call centre meant, the judges understand, pillaging any spares from IT departments or from desks and offices where the occupants were less than vigilant.
From a truck and trailer education unit, Messrs Manson and Grant coordinated teams for IT, facilities management, rostering, catering and communications. Comms links with the Red Cross, Police and Central Government were also put in place.
Notwithstanding this huge collective effort, the businesses of both Councils continued throughout this period of depleted numbers of people, PCs and phones.
The judges and the rest of New Zealand congratulate and applaud this initiative.