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May 02, 2008

Call centres tackle public works maintenance

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Facilities and infrastructure maintenance call centres are leading the way in providing alternative solutions for crisis management for the National Department of Public Works (DPW), Advance Call manager Junitha Alli revealed.

As the custodian for national government infrastructure, including prisons, courts of law, defence infrastructure and prestige facilities, such as Parliament and residences of Cabinet Ministers, the DPW has established a number of maintenance initiatives.

At the heart of these maintenance initiatives are four call centres for reporting and tracking breakdowns that occur at 175 prisons, 80 border posts, 12 harbours, 1 280 police stations, 145 military bases, 292 Home Affairs offices, 452 courts of law and 766 Schindler, Otis and other lift installations in government buildings, besides others.

In 2004, the tender to run these services for the DPW was awarded to Advance Call, who still operates infrastructure breakdown call centres predominantly for government departments. Infrastructure maintenance is a high priority for the DPW in the execution of its mandate. At the launch of the National Infrastructure Maintenance Strategy, Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said the department has tended not to put maintenance high on the agenda, but instead has launched it as an industry in its own right.

The call centres were established as part of the department’s Service Delivery Improvement Programme, with the aim of improving the efficiency, effectiveness and responsiveness of the department’s operations, including maintenance. One of the main benefits of a call centre is progress reporting of repair work to the relevant government departments on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

The facilities and infrastructure maintenance call centre was expanded in March 2006, to also serve Parliament, Tuynhuis, Groote Schuur estate (including Genadendal and Ministerial residences), as well as 280 houses of members of parliament. As one of the four call centres operated by Advance Call, the Prestige call centre lends support to Parliament and other parties for logging, tracking and reporting on incidents, as well as infrastructure breakdowns.

Advance Call’s second call centre operates as a repair and maintenance call centre (Ramp). Beneficiaries of this centre include lift companies Otis and Schindler, prisons, police stations, border posts, harbours, military bases, high courts, magistrates courts as well as Robben Island. Its purpose is the logging, tracking and reporting of breakdowns, related to civil infrastructure, mechanical and electrical installations and building services.

Based on the success of the imple- mentation of the Ramp call centre, Advance Call was appointed as the preferred call centre service provider for all national gov- ernment departments’ facility requirements in 2007. This day-to-day call centre provides a similar service to the Ramp, and among the beneficiaries are the South African Revenue Service, several government departments and police offices, as well as the National Intelligence Agency and the National Treasury.

The Dolomite call centre was established after the South African National Defence Force identified the threat posed by the dolomitic underlain area known as Thaba Tshwane. Advance Call was approached to develop a call centre solution to lower the risk of poten- tial incidents, such as water leaks and pipe bursts.

“We believe that South Africa could do with more facilities and infrastructure maintenance call centres in the light of the recent problems with water supply and quality, power failures and road conditions,” Alli comments.

The implementation of the facilities and infrastructure maintenance call centre significantly improves the service delivery of the DPW, owing to the fact that all breakdowns can be logged and tracked con- veniently. Feedback from users is monitored on a monthly basis through customer satisfaction reports and has thus far been overwhelmingly positive.

Advance Call is a black economic- empowerment company with majority shareholding held by Partici- pative Development Initiatives and a two-thirds shareholding by women. Part-time staff employed on after-hour shifts are selected from previously disadvantaged engineering student communities.

Edited by: Laura Tyrer
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