Evolution of Customer Service in the Waste Industry
From Notes on the Board to Computers in the Truck
Nathan Frank, Technology Officer, Mr. T Carting
When I started driving for Mr. T Carting in the 1990’s, I didn’t have a route sheet listing what I was supposed to pick up before a shift. Rather, I was required to learn the route and all of our customers by memory. I started out as a Helper (in our trucks we have one Driver and at least one Helper) and you really had to pay attention to everything that was happening. You not only had to manually pick up the waste material, but you also had to learn all the businesses, their addresses, and their collection schedules by heart. I wanted to be a Driver, so it was particularly important that I memorize all the turns, and maneuvering the truck throughout the night to ensure everything was completed properly.
It was a detail-oriented role being a Driver, and you had to have a particularly good memory to provide excellent service and to have relatively few missed pick-ups. If a customer closed their business, one of the Mr. T Carting office staff would add a note to a clipboard that held changes for the night so I’d see it when I arrived to work. When Mr. T Carting’s customer base started to grow in the 90’s, it became harder to manage the service changes that occurred. A few years after I started driving, we created a daily written route sheet to help us keep up with the changes. There was a cover sheet that let us know if there was a new customer, or if a customer had unfortunately gone out of business. We as drivers would have to note where in the route the new customer was going to be serviced so the office could make the changes to the next day’s route sheet. On a busy night, my list was around 500 stops, so the sheet definitely helped keep track of everything.
Fast forward to today, in my role as Mr. T Carting’s Technology Officer, I am still involved with how we communicate with our drivers, customers, and the customer service team.
But the way we do so has changed radically to keep up with the times. The “drivers’ sheets” are now digitally sent to the truck’s computers. No more paper sheets or notes on clipboards. Color-coded alerts pop up on the trucks’ screens before they take off for the night to make the Driver and Helper aware of any changes that are going to happen that night. Drivers can choose common replies from a drop-down menu to better track how we service our customers. For example, if a Driver selects that a customer does not frequently set out their containers on a particular day, that can be tracked back in the office. Our Sales team can then go to the customer and ask them if they would like to change their collection days or perhaps make their collection frequency less frequent. This has the potential to save the customer money and can help Mr. T. Carting eliminate unnecessary miles driven by our trucks making us more environmentally efficient. Geo-coded route guidance through our in-truck computers now can guide our Drivers to the customer location and can pinpoint where the materials (recycling, compost, and garbage) should be picked up, it’s a completely different, more technologically advanced world, waste collection in the City of New York is.
Similar advancements have been made with how Mr. T Carting’s customers communicate with us. Like during the “old days”, we still get a lot of phone calls each day, but our customer service staff can also be reached by email, SMS, MMS, and Facebook messaging, among others. A lot of customer calls come from cell phones and in some instances, it may be easier to send a text or text a picture to customer service as opposed to calling or emailing. Being “multi-channel” in how we can communicate helps eliminate the boundaries that can lead to missed (or mis) communications. It also means that we make ourselves accessible to preferred communication methods for our customers that span the generations. Based on the messages received from our customers, our Customer Service team can in turn make the necessary adjustments to the nightly collection route from their computers and send updates straight to the trucks.
Keeping a focus on great customer service and communication is one of Mr. T Carting’s top priorities, therefore we want to ensure all service requests are handled as fast as possible. There are peak times throughout the day where the volume of requests increases drastically and, in the past, a customer might have to wait on hold until an agent is available. We realize how busy everyone is and nobody wants to waste time on hold. With Mr. T’s current phone system, a customer will be told what number they are in the queue and can request a callback from us, so they don’t have to wait.
Since Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan are such diverse, multicultural areas, we are trying to be as accommodating as possible. Sometimes, there may be a language barrier with our customers. We are currently working on a system where if a customer chooses to contact to us though our website, they can do so in their preferred language, the options will be Russian, German, Japanese, Spanish, French, Chinese, Portuguese, Italian, and Polish. As they type in their own language, it will automatically be translated into English on our end. Talk about a massive difference between today and the 1990s where technology like this was only seen on TV.
These are just a few examples of the changes in customer service technology I have seen throughout the years. Not only have technological advancements made this possible but also a mindset at Mr. T Carting to embrace this evolution in how we provide the best customer service experience possible.
Thank you to all of our new and long-time customers that have been with us throughout the ages. We plan to continue to do right by you. Contact us anytime if we can do anything to improve our services.