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Meet the Stars: Michelle Manson of NEAS, Customer Service Star 2020

We caught up with Michelle Manson of The North East Ambulance Service, our Customer Service Star 2020.

2020 was a difficult year for contact centres from all industries – but none more so than for those working on the frontline of the pandemic. Michelle Manson of North East Ambulance Service, our Customer Service Star 2020, impressed the judges with her passion for delivering exceptional customer service in a very challenging time. In her work she bridges the gap between health advisor and leader, she supports her colleagues whilst always displaying a high level of professionalism and shows her passion for the delivery of great service with care and empathy. We caught up with Michelle to find out what sets her apart and what winning an Award meant to hear.

Michelle told us “It has been a challenging year for NEAS as a whole. We have seen massive increased demand on our 111 and 999 phonelines and have had to adapt to changes on a daily and sometimes hourly basis, especially when the pandemic was creeping across Europe and guidelines were constantly evolving. For crews on the road, they have had to put themselves at risk to deal with acutely unwell and injured patients, as well as making sure patient's undergoing treatment for illnesses such as cancer are also able to access care safely. The Health Advisors in the control room deal with pressure from all angles, from patients, from other emergency services, from hospitals and GPs and when we are dealing with such high call volumes, rarely is there a time for them to pause between calls. They can go from a traumatic CPR call to a toothache to a major road traffic collision, all in the space of minutes. The Senior Health Advisor team has worked continuously alongside the Health Advisors, Clinicians and Team Leaders to support the staff with live calls, coaching and welfare.”

We asked Michelle how the team have supported each other during this difficult time. “We have seen great morale during the pandemic, and the staff at in the Emergency Operations Centre are like a second family. We have all been grateful to be able to continue to come to work, when so many of the office staff have had to vacate their seats and work from home, allowing the control room staff to spread out and socially distance. Being able to see colleagues every day and night has been a silver lining through this awful year, especially for staff who may live alone and can no longer see family or friends. The teams have all worked hard to allow life at NEAS to continue in our "new normal" and have pulled together to show how proud we are to work for NEAS and the important job we all do.”

The judges have said that what really set Michelle aside was her ability to treat customers with great care and empathy in such a high pressure environment. We asked Michelle how she does it! “I have a family, ageing relatives, young children of my own - I have always ensured I treat patients with the same dignity and respect that I would want my own family to receive. When we deal with patients who are frustrated, in pain or scared, they can lash out verbally and that can be hard for staff to manage. I believe the words they use are not personal to me or to the staff member they are speaking to, but are a reaction to the situation they find themselves in. Throughout the last year, we have also seen patient's and families show their gratitude in high volumes, with cards, letters, gifts and words of kindness. We make sure that within the control room, this praise and gratitude is shared as it serves to bolster morale and improves staff wellbeing.”

With the Awards going online in 2020, it was a very different event than our usual black-tie dinner. The team at NEAS celebrated by having a socially distanced celebration at Headquarters. “We had cakes and fizz, whilst we watched the awards! I then retired home, to my pyjamas, at a very respectable time and tried to hide from my children who wanted to talk about Fortnite...”

We asked Michelle what winning the Awards meant to hear, and what she would say to anyone thinking about entering NECCA in 2021. “It meant so much - we do this job as it is an essential service. The role is very difficult, and no two days are the same. Winning this was not just about my achievements, but about the hard work our whole team puts in behind the scenes; how we come in 24/7 to make sure the residents of the North East have someone to turn to when they need it. Personally, it won't do my CV any harm either!"

"I would tell anyone thinking of entering the Awards to have a go! NEAS were shortlisted in 4 categories and won two awards on the night, and we didn't realise how competitive we were until the ceremony came around! It was lovely to find out what other call centres and control rooms do across the region and how they have all made adjustments and sacrifices to get through this tricky year. It was great to feel part of a bigger regional team, that extended beyond our walls.”

Nominations for the North East Contact Centre Awards 2021 open 7 May 2021. For full information go to

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