Brisbane City Council’s Contact Centre is celebrating four million calls taken over the past five years.

Very often these days, when we call a government agency or business, we find ourselves at the end of a frustrating and time-consuming automated phone system.

Brisbane City Council stands out as one of the few contact centres nationally that ensures callers always get to speak to someone. In recognition of its uniqueness, Council’s Contact Centre (they do not refer to it as a “call centre”) has won various awards for excellence.

Contact centres are based in Chermside and Yeronga and operate as a one-stop-shop 24 hours, seven days a week, for all Council-related queries. Its vision is that it is “dedicated to customers, everyone, everywhere, every time”. 

The Centre was launched in 1996 under the Mayorship of Labor’s James (Jim) Soorley, with 40 council team members answering 1,200 calls a day to a current workforce 114 strong, which averages 92 calls taken every hour.

Chair of Community, Arts and Nighttime Economy, Vicki Howard, said the Centre provides expert insights to Brisbane residents for thousands of different enquiry types, from the sensible to the slightly unconventional. 

“When the Contact Centre opened, one of the first calls was from an elderly lady who was panicking because her souffle wasn’t rising in the oven and she needed urgent advice,” Cr Howard said.

“After talking to a colleague, the consultant advised the caller that her oven wasn’t hot enough and she needed to turn it right up. To this day, it’s a mystery if the grateful caller’s souffle was successful or not, but we assume it was delicious!

“These days Council continues to field unique requests from time to time, but the top concerns include property searches, illegally parked vehicles and animal permits.”

To relieve pressure on local Ward offices, people are encouraged to call the contact centre in the first instance – though perhaps not for cooking instructions. Council aims to answer calls within 20 seconds and says it is the best contact method for urgent issues, such as traffic light problems, lost animals, dangerous dogs, lost property, and public safety concerns.

Ryan, celebrating his 12th year with the contact centre, said the most frequent calls he gets concern potholes, illegal parking, and accounts.

Ryan had never worked in a call centre before and said that he was pleasantly surprised to find that the contact centre is well-staffed and that the consultants can take as much time as they need on each call. He said staff receive a lot of positive feedback, and most calls are constructive interactions. 

“The Centre has won so many awards for having that people initiative. I think that we are deemed the best in Australia. I think we’re the best in the world, but I’m a little bit prejudiced. I think that the work that people like Ryan and the team do is nothing short of amazing, because they do receive all sorts of calls from people,” Cr Howard said.

The Centre’s job is to triage reported issues and refer them to a relevant Council work group if necessary. The work group takes the issue from there and will often update callers on progress. Council aims to re-contact callers again within five working days with a reference number and a time frame for routine maintenance issues.

“We have very good feedback from people who’ve reached out to us in that way… the success rate is very high,” Cr Howard said.

Cr Howard said the Contact Centre becomes particularly important in times of crisis, with council team members experiencing a 37 per cent increase in enquiries during the first five days of the 2022 flood event.

“We’ve also got the ability when there’s a disaster situation such as the floods last year, where some of the officers can work from home. We make sure that we’re always able to take those calls 24/7.”

Before starting with the Centre, Ryan said he took part in an extensive training program of four to six weeks covering the work of Council. 

“I didn’t know half the things that Council did until I started working here. And then as the time progresses, there are updates to information and processes; we get that on quite a regular basis.”

Cr Howard said data collated from the contact centre is important to Council and shapes how things can be improved.

“The training of our officers is huge, and it’s something that we’ve extended to our Ward Offices so that everyone across Council is able to get the excellent training to allow people like Ryan to do their job.

Lord Mayor, Adrian Schrinner said, 

“No matter how you choose to contact our highly skilled team, they are available to help and guide callers to get the best out of Brisbane.”

Local Gabba Ward Councillor, Jonathan Sriranganathan is positive about the Contact Centre’s personal approach.

“When so many companies and government departments are relying more heavily on automation and outsourcing, I think we’re lucky that Brisbane City Council’s call centre still employs actual humans who are part of our community,” Cr Sriranganathan told the Westender.

But he said he worries that future administrations may not have the political will to ensure the Centre continues to be adequately resourced.

“I worry that at some point, the council administration could try to cut funding for the call centre in a misplaced pursuit of fiscal restraint, but that needs to be strongly resisted by residents, because having an effective public call centre actually saves the council a lot of money by ensuring issues get identified and reported faster.”

12 year staff member, Ryan with Cr Vicki Howard


You can contact Brisbane City Council, via social media, on 3403 8888 or by visiting a Regional Business Centre.

People with hearing impairment or speech impairment can contact Council using their preferred relay call option through the National Relay Service.

Council lists issues you can report via the Contact Centre HERE.

Top 10 Call Topics for 2022

Cover Image, Chermside Contact Centre Staff with Councillor Howard. All images, Jan Bowman

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