“Hi, thanks for calling Columbia city hall; this is Crystal. How can I help you?”

Anyone who has ever called Daniel Boone City Building has heard this message. Sometimes the name is different — you may hear from Dana, Payge, Kelsey, Tony or Brandy instead — but the rhythm remains the same.

The Customer Service Representatives, or CSRs, are the voice of city hall and, for many, the frontline contact for the city. There are currently six CSRs who answer the customer lines of 25 city divisions.

Stephanie Brown, the community relations manager, said each CSR averages around 50-100 “contacts” a day. A contact often means a phone call, but it also includes answering emails, conversations on the chat feature of the city’s website and in-person interactions at the front desk.

“The contact center started in 2014 with two CSRs, and we’ve grown to seven,” said Brown. “And I’ve added a supervisor.”

Like any customer service job, there are ups and downs to such a people-centric role.

“You never know what you’re going to get when you answer the phone. You could get somebody screaming at you. You could get somebody that actually needs a 911 service versus calling the city,” said CSR Crystal Calvert. “It’s very challenging sometimes, trying to figure out who the person needs to go to. But it’s rewarding, being able to actually help out a little bit and get them where they need to be.”

Calvert is a life-long Columbia resident and has worked as a CSR for six months. Her favorite thing to do is watch her kids play sports and spend time with her family.

Calvert said although some people will get on the call frustrated, by the end of the interaction they’ll be professing their love for her because she got them a waste container. Moments like these are the reason she loves her job, and it helps that she has great relationships with her co-workers and bosses.

Jamie Addams was once a CSR and is now the head supervisor of the department. Addams has many responsibilities including helping the CSRs when there is an influx in calls. She’s passionate about history and movies and likes to explore the trails of Columbia with her partner.

Addams simply wants citizens to know the CSRs are here to help.

“Give us the call; get on chat. Send us an email. Even if you think it’s something off the wall. Or if you think, ‘Oh, I don’t want to bother anybody with that.’” Addams said. “If there’s a street corner, and you think the vegetation is too high, and you can’t see around it, call us.”

  • City and County Government, Fall 2021 Studying Investigative Journalism and Economics Reach me at destinymuller@umsystem.edu

  • Fred Anklam manages city and county government reporters. He can be reached at anklamf@missouri.edu or in the newsroom at 573-882-5720.

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