3 Reasons Phone Calls Are Worse For Operations Than You Think

If the people you serve are still calling you when they think you’ve missed collecting their trash or recycling — or to find out when collection day is, schedule special collections, or ask what’s recyclable – chances are you’re well positioned to make significant gains in efficiency, effectiveness, and cost savings by taking the next step in your digital transformation.

For many haulers, the real cost of staffing phones is higher than they think, which means that helpful tools to reduce phone interactions or replace them with digital ones are well within budgetary reach.

Not sure call volume is a real problem for your team? With the average cost of handling a single inbound call ringing in (conservatively) at $5.05, according to Cisco, answering phones could be worse for your organization than you think.

1| Phone calls cost more — sometimes much more — than we imagine

What’s it cost to staff phones for the communities you serve? At a call volume of just three calls per household per year, at the average cost of $5.05 per call, annual spend on staffing phones adds up quickly:

  • Answering calls from 20,000 households: $75,750 per year
  • Answering calls from 100,000 households: $378,750 per year
  • Answering calls from 250,000 households: $946,875 per year

Digital tools for waste and recycling education that allow people to access information via websites and mobile apps not only reduce calls, but they lead to happier people, too. Digital tools are available 24 hours a day, granting people access to information when it works for them, and meet modern expectations about how cities and businesses should interact with the people they serve.

Example from the field: With digital communication tools for waste and recycling, the City of Durham, North Carolina reduced annual call volume from 1.2 million in 2018 to 750,000 in 2022.

2| The slippery but significant opportunity cost of analog

While it’s somewhat simple to add up the cost of calls, it’s a little more difficult to quantify the value of all the things staff members are not able to do because they’re busy manning phones or managing other legacy or paper-based processes.

Most organizations aren’t looking to replace staff members with digital: Instead, they’d rather save money, balance budgets, ensure quality service at the lowest cost possible, and give employees the opportunity to add more value to their organizations than they can while tethered to analog processes.

When calculating the cost-benefit ratio of further digital investment, don’t forget to include the value of programs and initiatives that teams can undertake once they’re largely freed of phone duty.

Example from the field: Enhanced efficiency enabled the Municipality of Anchorage, Alaska to launch and scale a new organics collection program from 120 to 2,000 households and growing.

3| One phone call leads to another

When customers learn that calling is the best way to get the service they need, one thing can lead to another. Providing great service by phone can increase, rather than decrease, pressure on your team by encouraging more calls.

With smart truck features like cameras and video in the field, customer-facing teams can easily verify service and share images from routes (showing carts not out, or parked too closely to vehicles), discouraging future calls while reducing costly go-backs.

With online collection calendars and reminders, materials search for what goes where, and special collection scheduling, phone calls are replaced with always-on digital tools for waste and recycling.

Example from the field: The City of Waco, Texas added service verification and video capability to collection vehicles, reducing phone calls and the resulting unnecessary internal communication they create.

As the cost of in-person interactions rises — on the order of five percent a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — forward-thinking waste and recycling organizations will continue transforming digitally to stem budgetary concerns while ensuring exceptional customer service.

Learn more. Want to learn how digital can help your organization thrive? Let’s talk.


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