By Karen Sutherland, Team Leader
I am a team leader at Careium’s monitoring centre in Blackburn, Lancashire. I’m responsible, along with the other team leaders, for keeping the shift running smoothly. We ensure calls are answered quickly and efficiently, as well as looking after the welfare of the operators. We need to constantly be alert from the beginning to the end of a shift. We could start by helping a call handler to sign on, to then listening alertly to assist with any issues as the shift progresses. Our role is very diverse and you could say we are also counsellors, advisors and problem solvers.
We need patience, empathy, and a sense of humour
There is never a typical day. We can get calls for someone needing help because of a fall, to an alert from a smoke detector. We need to determine quickly if it’s an emergency or just burnt toast. We take calls from all over the country, speaking to clients from Kent up to the Orkney Islands.
I’m not going to pretend and say it’s easy, it can be tough. We are the frontline to someone needing help, often in distressing circumstances, in a time of increased ambulance delays, and that can lead to a client venting their frustration. But we can finish a shift knowing we have done our best to help someone or had a conversation that has made their day brighter.
Teamwork is the key to having the best day and getting the appropriate help to our clients, passing on the right information, and putting comprehensive notes on calls so the next operator knows what is happening and the latest situation.
It is important to me that I keep a happy, friendly shift. We could answer a call from a client where we are the only person they have spoken to all day. We need to be making sure we are speaking to clients with respect and in a friendly manner. If there is an issue the client has we need to make sure the team has patience and empathy to understand and deal with the problem.
I started in 2010, as part of Eldercare, firstly as an operator which I loved, and became a team leader about 8 years ago. I treasure the days I was an operator, not only taking the calls but the staff too. From a colleague who made the most delicious cakes, to holiday celebrations like Halloween, Christmas and Eid. I’m not one who likes to dress up, but I have ended up looking like an elf on a few occasions!
We do have a really interesting, diverse group of work colleagues We have teams working remotely in the South East, making each day different and fun at times!
The working environment is also good. Comfy seats make all the difference and we all have spacious desks with dual computer screens to make viewing information easier when on calls. We have a nice rest room with all the usual amenities. Plus, the best views overlooking a reservoir, horses, sheep and windswept people walking their dogs.
We must determine what sort of call it is within seconds and there are procedures we must follow on all calls. These guides are very important and we have a lovely team who make sure they are up-to-date, so we have all the information needed for every call. The variety of calls is vast – we could be locating someone with dementia who has left the property, to sending an engineer to a burst pipe in a housing scheme to having to assist someone with a suspected stroke.
I find it rewarding when having to deal with calls that have been escalated to a team leader. Being able to keep calm and friendly, communicating clearly and making sure the call has been dealt with professionally, means I know we have done our utmost to resolve a situation. I have developed friendships over the years with lots of our corporate customers. I find it incredible that I could talk to someone regularly over the phone but knowing if I saw them in the street, I wouldn’t know who they were.
Personally, I like Fridays, I treat myself to lunch from the local deli (well actually it is a hut!). It takes me about 20 minutes to get to work and I start my day listening to the phone-ins on the local radio station, it brightens the start of my day even when I have a 6am start.
Overall, my day is busy, full of caring colleagues that are working hard to ensure our clients get the best help they can. I am constantly on Teams to different people solving issues or seeking advice myself. I leave a shift often knowing I have improved or contributed to making a colleague’s or client’s day better. You can’t say more than that can you?