COMPLAINING about foul smells from Yorkshire Water should get a whole lot easier this year, with a local drop-in and contact centre being established at St. Augustine’s Park in Hedon (Preston South) on Hull Road (above the Butterflies nursery) near to the Co-op garage/petrol station.
Customer engagement officers who will be based at the new centre when it opens have been out visiting people in the area who have previously lodged complaints to inform them of the development. The centre, which is expected to open in the next few weeks, will allow people to drop-in and find out more about the £30m investment at the Waste Water Treatment Works at Saltend which, according to Yorkshire Water’s big publicity banner at the site, is primarily aimed at tackling odour issues.
Significantly, the new contact point above Butterflies will also have a dedicated phone number so local people can get in touch directly with Yorkshire Water via a local number, rather than through their main call centre number in Bradford.
In the case of Hedon residents, when winds from the west bring foul odours into the town, we should be able to call up the local call centre and say; ‘stick your head out of the window and sniff – it’s back!’ Of course, the staff visiting complainants’ homes at the moment are reassuring customers that the £30m investment should do the trick, but just in case, the new contact centre should provide a quick and easy contact point for complaints.
The customer engagement staff have dropped off business cards with their contact details too, so the whole process of contacting Yorkshire Water should improve dramatically from what existed previously and this will be a welcome improvement.
The centre above Butterflies has reportedly cost Yorkshire Water £100,000 to establish and seven customer engagement staff will be based from there which indicates fixed-term salary costs of around £200,000 for the year. It will be interesting to see how the new engagement team conduct their work programme over the course of the next 12 months. Whilst their job description is about customer liaison and managing customer expectations, the effectiveness of the engagement aspect of the new team will be very much dependent on how closely they collaborate with customer groups like the Stench at Saltend Facebook Group for example, as well as reaching out to those who only occasionally complain but still suffer the problems associated with foul odours.
The new customer engagement team needs to be able to understand the issues locally, be able to anticipate when problems are likely to arise in the local community, and be able to act on and convey those issues back to Yorkshire Water with appropriate advice. A difficult and skilled job!
Hedon Blog says: Whilst the new customer engagement approach is a very positive step forward for the water company, even the most effective customer engagement will only limit the public relations damage done to Yorkshire Water if there are major odour escapes in the future – fundamentally, the £30m investment needs to sort out the smells!