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What a council is looking for in a customer service professional

What a council is looking for in a customer service professional

17 days ago By Sarah Kettlewell
Council customer service

To get you on the inside track in customer service, our consultant Sarah Kettlewell has interviewed a customer service coordinator from an inner metro council in Melbourne.

HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE A GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE CANDIDATE?

Very good question – I would say a calm and level headed manner and approach about them. I know that we would typically prefer to have experience within local government or government environment, however we will look at people from a high-volume call centre environment as well.

We would also look for people who computer literate, as the industry is moving to be very computer orientated. We require people to be using 8-10 systems per day including:

  • Website
  • Intranet
  • GIS Mapping
  • Internal databases

We look at people with a strong ability to problem solve and show initiative, as they will be working within a busy and ever changing role.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A CANDIDATES RESUME WHEN RECRUITING?

With regards to contract opportunities, we would ideally look for previous government experience and recent experience in a related role. Those that are comfortable using multiple systems will fit customer service roles well. We are moving to a very computer-orientated industry, with people logging requests online rather than calling.

WHAT 3 TIPS WOULD YOU PROVIDE A CANDIDATE TO ASSIST IN THEIR JOB SEARCH?

  1. Engage a great recruiter – typically with contract based opportunities we are recruiting through recruitment agencies, partner with someone who specialises in this space.
  2. Learn what a council does – councils provide so many services to the community and residents. Prepare for your interview by understanding these services, looking on the council’s website, making note of specific projects or events etc. going on throughout the municipality. This shows that you have researched and care about the role and organisation. We don’t know the candidate, so it is important they differentiate themselves by showing knowledge about the prospective employer.
  3. Knowing what systems you have used - even if you think they are not relevant, this is very important information to have on hand and be aware of.

WHAT BENEFITS DO YOU SEE FOR CANDIDATES TO CONTRACT?

  • Flexibility in employment and variety in role
  • The ability to try new things
  • If you have worked in the industry before then it gives you the ability to see how other councils work.

As customer service representatives are the first point of call, people naturally develop a knowledge base of all services a council offers. A lot of the time we see customer service officers offered administration roles within other council departments.

After three months of starting within customer service as a contractor, you have the capability to apply for internal roles across the organisation. We also see some contractors headhunted within the company. As they did well during one contract, other departments soon start offering further contracts.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF WORKING IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT?

  1. Work life balance – flexible working hours, rostered day off etc.
  2. Variety – not only in work that you do, but also the varied work opportunities that arise (I started at a council as a trainee. I am in my 20th year and in my 8th role within the organisation).
  3. Rewarding career – they are trying to do best by the community, residents and environment. It feels great to be working for a place that is for the people.

ANY ADVICE YOU COULD PROVIDE TO SOMEONE TRYING TO BREAK INTO THE INDUSTRY?

See, I was a trainee so I would say to anyone looking into starting a career in local government to open yourself to traineeships. Otherwise, start with contract work as this gives you the ability try before you settle on a role. Contracts give you a feel for the organisation and what areas would like to work in. Of course, customer service gives you the ability to understand the whole of a council and its services, so starting here would allow you to figure out your area of interest or development.