Diversity is key in Contact Management
Name: Arundeep Rai
Length of service: 7 months
Age: 25 years old
What made you want to become a 999/101 call handler?
I worked in a call centre previously. Relatives of mine that worked for Thames Valley made me aware of the opportunities in contact management and it made sense to bring the two things together. Having known people who worked for the force made the decision to change easy.
The calls you take can be challenging – how do you and the department handle those?
Some challenging calls stick with you but the support we get is fantastic. I received a departmental ‘good egg award’, this is an initiative which runs monthly across our three call centres (Abingdon, Kidlington and Milton Keynes) recognising good practice. Challenging calls can also be the most rewarding as you know you have made a difference, even saved a life by handling the call well.
How do you find the support as a call handler?
This is the most supportive place I have worked. At the moment, because of Covid-19 I have had to work from home, due to living with high risk individuals. I am not taking calls at home, but I have been set up to handle our online enquiries. This means I am still able to contribute and do a vital part of the job which is important.
You’re part of the Staff Association for Minority Ethnic staff (SAME) – is that something you felt was important coming into TVP from a multi-cultural background?
Yes, I joined SAME very early on when I joined the force. There is a lot of support available at TVP, staff can join the UNISON trade union and officers the Police Federation. I haven’t personally had one to one support from them, but the Head of SAME along with the Chief Constable sent out a letter expressing the force’s awareness that there was a greater risk to people from BAME backgrounds relating to Covid-19 and as someone who lives with high risk individuals, it was reassuring to see that support and understanding. There are several staff support networks available within the force for other minority groups including a Women’s Network, LGBT+, Christian Police Association and Disability Support Network.
Would you recommend others considering joining TVP to join SAME?
Yes, although there is no pressure. For me it’s good to have a network of colleagues who understand my cultural background and where I’m from.
As someone from a minority ethnic background, how do you view diversity and inclusion within the force?
There is a lot happening across the force to improve diversity and ensure everyone feels valued. In my room I’m one of about nine or ten people that come from a BAME background, our cultural understanding, being able to pick up on idiosyncrasies that others might not immediately spot can help a caller in their distressing time. I do not think enough BAME people realise that their unique experiences, good and bad, can be really useful in this job, as our diverse communities are only getting bigger.
What are the most important transferable skills for someone coming into contact management?
The ability to communicate to anyone, whatever their age, ethnicity, gender, background. Being able to have that approachability without being seen – asking the right questions.
You get really great training and support to do the job. But it’s also about communicating with your line managers and colleagues if you have had a tough call and need a few moments. Every call handler has different triggers that might need you to reflect and take some time; for me I find calls about honour based abuse particularly difficult. The room is so supportive, you’re encouraged to take a break or chat it through, or just have a quiet few minutes… then you are ready to go again.
What can you tell us about your apprenticeship within Contact Management?
My initial training was very helpful, and the trainers are friendly and happy to answers all the questions you might have. The mentoring and tutoring parts were also great in improving call taking skills, and building the confidence needed to make sure you can take calls.
I enjoyed tutoring the most, as it allowed me to get to know people inside the office a lot better and made this easier.
The biggest thing I have learnt is that I can handle very difficult and pressurised calls.
I would definitely recommend this apprenticeship to others, as it gives you the ability to open so many more doors to yourself.