If in doubt, ask Auckland Council.
That seems to be thought of many Aucklanders who, when they’re in an unusual or sticky situation, believe the council will have the answer.
The council’s contact centres answer around 1.5 million calls a year across eight locations.
While the majority of queries are about rates, rubbish or roads, there are many that raise more challenging topics such as cooking tips or help with a pub quiz.
One caller made the suggestion of having giant fans on the motorway to blow away the fog, while another wanted council staff to deal with a naked neighbour walking around his house.
Wendell Wylde, Manager of Contact Centres North, says, “You always need a high level of sensitivity when answering the phones and it’s important to evaluate how serious the question is before you allow yourself to smile about it.”
The council’s policy is that every interaction counts. It’s a three-step plan to understand, act and deliver, “so the man who had the fog fan idea, his real concern was weather and traffic. It’s not our job to tell him that a fan on the motorway isn’t a good idea,” says Mr Wylde.
Employees staff the call centre phones 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year, and must always have their wits about them.
Mr Wylde says that no matter how quirky a query, the team always try and answer it, or find the right person who can.
Staff at the contact centre can do many things, from booking a building inspection to renewing a library book, but unfortunately they may not know the best place to buy a cupcake or at what temperature to cook liver.
Top 10 quirky queries to the council contact centre
1. Why don’t we have fans on the motorway to blow away the fog?
2. A request to book a seat on the Civil Defence helicopter in case we have a natural disaster (caller wants to be picked up first).
3. What’s the best place in Orewa to buy a cupcake (not a muffin)? The caller then elaborated on the difference between cupcakes and muffins.
4. My neighbour walks around his living room naked. Please can you ask him to buy curtains?
5. What’s the correct oven temperature to cook liver?
6. Two dogs are mating on the footpath outside my house. Please can you send over an animal officer to move them on?
7. Phone a friend (from a pub quiz) – why is A4 paper called A4 paper?
8. Can my child eat the grass in one of the Glendowie Parks?
9. Is it possible to install a parking bay on the side of the road outside my daughter’s house for my boat (the caller is happy to cover the cost)?
10. There is a seal walking down the main road in Papakura.