Meet the OSPRI Contact Centre Team
Joining OSPRI in 2014, Caleb Mitchell is one of the longest serving OSPRI contact centre operators. He has extensive experience helping farmers and NAIT users with queries on NAIT and TBfree management.
How long have you been working at the OSPRI Contact Centre?
Around five and a half years. I was studying at Otago [University] and got the opportunity to come home to Wellington and work. I initially worked remotely while I was completing my Marketing and Economics degree, before eventually joining the team in Wellington.
Do you come from a farming background?
I’m probably more a city boy, but my best mate runs a beef farm in the Wairarapa and I like to escape over there when I can. When I was growing up, I used to spend time helping on my aunt and uncle and grandparents’ lifestyle blocks.
The NAIT and TBfree programmes are broad, what do you specialise in?
Generally anything around TB testing with reactors, where an animal following a TB test is diagnosed as being positive. I will make the call to the farmer to advise them of the test result and that the animal will have to go to slaughter.
How do you manage that engagement with farmers?
It can be challenging, and you are always mindful of the impact it can have on a farmer receiving that call. The five years I’ve been with the contact centre has taught me not to judge as no call is the same. When someone’s livelihood is potentially on the line you naturally empathise and want to help work through the situation with the farmer, so they can get the best outcome in the circumstances.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Helping farmers obviously and we have a great team too. We aren’t just about responding to calls either. We have a range of other admin duties and get the opportunity to get out and about at field day events. There you meet farmers face to face and sometimes they are upset, but it is so satisfying to help them with their issue and see them leave happier and content.
How has your role changed?
Becoming a senior, I’m more involved in a mentoring role now assisting existing or new staff. There is such a broad range of stuff you must learn and sharing that expertise not only helps my team members but also of course helps farmers who are calling in.
How has farmer engagement changed?
The biggest change is with NAIT. Back in the day, there were two phone lines, one for TB free and NAIT enquiries and you were always apprehensive when the NAIT line was ringing. I can recall there were lots of angry and frustrated callers, but over time and more recently it has swung the other way. Farmers who call now about NAIT are keen to engage and want to get any issues sorted out. There was an instance recently where I helped a Canterbury based farmer with his NAIT account. He literally walked into the Wellington office off the street.
Do you have a message for farmers?
We have been extraordinarily busy with the NAIT re-registration. The volume of calls has been considerable, and we’ve had to work through emails and phone messages aside taking calls. Please be patient and don’t be anxious, we are not compliance inspectors. We are all about helping farmers and getting your situation sorted. We are gearing up for the moving day period [busiest time for farm movements] and have recently employed more staff to build the team’s capability.