Tuesday 12 August 2014

BCT Visit the RSPCA

Our Bat Care Network Co-ordinator Jess Barker recently visited the RSPCA's National Call Centre. Here she shares her experience with us...
‘The RSPCA invited me to visit their National Call Centre (NCC) in my first summer as Network Co-ordinator, but the increase in my workload somewhat knocked me for six, so it never happened. This year I was determined to make it happen! I’ve worked with very skilled individuals at the RSPCA throughout my career in animal welfare charities, and also at BCT, but I did go to the NCC with my view somewhat coloured by negative things I’d heard about advice and waiting times on their Helpline.

My day was split between shadowing staff on the phones, being shown around by David (one of the quality control managers) and giving two talks to NCC managers and staff on bats and the work of the Bat Helpline.  It took no time at all to be struck by two things: how gigantic the call volumes are, and how very committed the staff are to ensuring their advice is good and cases being prioritised appropriately.

The Bat Helpline handle in the region of 13,000 enquiries a year. By 10.45am on the day of my visit, the NCC had already taken 544 calls and would meet our yearly volume within a busy few days. On back to back calls call handlers were doing all the reassurance and advising that we do on the Helpline, but also facing far greater emotional strain from hearing descriptions of cruelty, and trying to assist aggressive callers. The range of calls is very wide, so call handlers have a knowledge base with snappy information on various topics, including a bat flowchart which was developed with BCT.

The ‘tasking’ teams pick up records of calls where further action is needed, and send cases out to staff in the field. I sometimes experience frustration at the realities of prioritising limited resources, but this is nothing compared to what the RSPCA face! To help keep RSPCA Inspectors for the cases where particular experience and authority is needed, the RSPCA also has Animal Collection Officers and Animal Welfare Officers, who can take on transport and assessment work.

Anyone who has worked in a call centre will be familiar with the call board which shows how many calls are waiting and for how long, turning red after the oldest call has been waiting for a certain length of time. The NCC have these, and knowing this helped me be patient a few weeks later when I called about a trapped cat. When David talked about ensuring call quality, you could tell he had a lot of faith in the call handlers and if there was any suggestion things had gone wrong he was going to do all he could to find the facts of the matter, as we do on the Bat Helpline. Every call handler has four calls monitored and scored a month to ensure advice is being given correctly, and all calls are recorded.

I came away from my day so impressed at the attitude of the staff, the workload they cope with and the tough decisions they make. Negative stories always seem to carry more weight, but following my experience of the NCC I’d ask anyone who hears one to balance it against the thousands of calls with positive outcomes that we don’t hear about.’

If you are worried about a bat, please call our Helpline on 0845 1300 228 and our helpline officers will advise you on what to do next.

The RSPCA Helpline is a 24-hour service for reports of mistreated, neglected, injured or distressed animals. Initial advice for those concerned about an animal is available via the RSPCA online chat service (http://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare).

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