Nine minutes

That’s how long this telephone conversation lasted.

If I tell you that, on average, we’re able to resolve enquiries in about two and a half minutes you’ll understand why this is quite a significant investment of time, relatively speaking.

Listening to our calls again this week a few of things stood out to me. The first was that it was incredibly busy, a contrast to the past quieter winter months. The second was that almost every other call was to renew a boat licence, not unusual  for this time of the year.  And the third was this phone call...

An elderly gentleman, by his own admission, had called to buy a licence for his boat. A boat he had purchased  a week ago. I was keen to hear Sian handle this enquiry because they can be quite complex conversations, particularly if the proud new owner has not done all the necessary research before handing over their hard earned readies.

The call went exactly as I hoped it would, Sian demonstrating her knowledge in a clear and confident manner, a little lighter conversation about all sorts added for a generally pleasant experience. 

They spoke about how he needed to licence the boat, because it was currently unlicensed. She took his home address details to post him the licence application form, which he needed to complete because this was the first time  he would be licensing this boat. She told him about the requirement for insurance and a boat safety certificate. And she reassured him that there were no difficult questions but that if he did struggle with anything he was welcome to call us and we would help him complete the form. 

He asked if we would accept a cheque from his bank as he didn’t have a bank account (mostly because he didn’t trust them, it’s amazing how much information people are happy to share with a complete stranger) she told him we would, and confirmed the name it needed to be made out to. 

Then they discussed the cost of the licence. Having explained to him how long he would be entitled to the prompt payment discount, found the length of the boat on our system, calculated the licence fee based on this length and then they deliberated whether he would need a Canal & River licence or a River Only licence...

“So where will you be keeping and using the boat?”

“Oh yes.  On the River Nene”.


So Sian politely provided him with the telephone number for the Environment Agency’s customer service team as we looked at each other, completely and utterly bemused. The gentleman’s disappointment evident when he realised he would have to speak to someone other than Sian in order to buy a licence for his boat.

I cannot fault the conversation, it was a shining example of what we aim for. It’s just that you expect, at the very least, for the enquiry to be aimed at the correct navigation authority.

Perhaps in future that should be our first check.

Last date edited: 27 February 2015

About this blog

Sarina Young

Sarina joined us in 2008 as our customer services co-ordinator. Among other things, she manages our national customer service team, complaints procedure and requests for information made to the Trust. She says that the most important thing to her is to be able to go home and feel as though she’s achieved something, however small that might be. Her job is hugely satisfying, widely varied, full of deadlines, immensely interesting, sometimes challenging and no day is ever the same, although some are surprisingly familiar!  

See more blogs from this author