Call it rubbish, trash or garbage, we probably don’t think much about the waste we generate, where it goes and how it’s managed. One of the companies that spends a lot of time thinking about this is Envirowaste, one of New Zealand’s leading waste and recycling companies, who helps us all enjoy our beautiful country through innovative and sustainable resource recovery and management.
Envirowaste is a large national organisation with transfer stations across the country used by thousands of people when there’s a need to discard waste that can’t be left at their gate. As a result, transfer stations have become a very important place for customer interaction and building a brand reputation.
Each Envirowaste Transfer Station is manned by personnel who carry out a range of important jobs including:
Transfer Stations can become busy places and often people will arrive wanting to dump and then leave as quickly as possible. For others, it’s fascinating and they may become too inquisitive.
Customer engagement and management is important to make the experience as easy as possible while also following rules and regulations. The need for higher degrees of control has increased as health and safety legislation has been reviewed because Transfer Stations can also be dangerous places, and staff have to be firm with customers at times.
The company realised there was a need to train staff on how to manage people in often difficult situations to ensure health and safety remained a priority, while also balancing this with efficiency and providing a welcoming experience.
Our first step was to more fully understand the health and safety requirements for Envirowaste’s transfer stations. We did this by going on-site to assess how interaction between Envirowaste personnel and customers occurred, and some of the opportunities for improvement.
Not many people would have had the chance to spend a lot of time at a transfer station other than when dropping off rubbish. When we observed the activity throughout each day, we found a complex environment with many different types of customer interactions and where a number of different emotions are expressed.
Following this research, in conjunction with the transfer station managers and staff, we developed personas for the customer groups that visited sites, noting their typical needs, questions and reactions, and then socialised these personas to ensure they resonated.
We then developed a mini training programme for all the staff on identifying the different types of customers and built a decision tree to help guide them on how to respond in a variety of situations.
During the training sessions, we gathered feedback from staff and developed an ‘on the job’ tool to use whenever needed. This described standard responses to a wide variety of situations involving different personas, and included the most effective ways to:
The engagement with staff throughout provided the opportunity to build tools and sessions that would deliver to their needs and be of ongoing use.
Once we had provided the first part of the programme, our role was to work closely with Supervisors on how they could continue the discussion about the different personas to ensure an enduring, changed and improved behaviour in managing customers.
Staff at Transfer Stations were equipped with training and tools to manage a wide variety of customers in different and sometimes difficult situations, and this gave them confidence. Using different personas, staff were able to adjust their approach and style to meet their needs whilst ensuring the Transfer Station remained a safe place to visit.
The hands-on practical nature of the tools we developed with Envirowaste allowed staff to learn new skills in customer engagement. Once developed, they were able to be used internally on an ongoing basis.
Overall, the programme has provided a better experience for both customers and staff. In so doing, it has improved the service provided and the overall customer experience, as well as the reputation of Envirowaste.