Always here to help
As Head of Customer Service at the Met Office, Craig 'Chalky' Langley plays a vital role in making sure weather information reaches the people who need it.
From deciding whether to hang the washing out to safeguarding vital infrastructure against storms, thousands of people and organisations use the Met Office's weather information services - day in, day out. Whenever they have a query or feedback about a service, Chalky and the customer advisers on the Weather Desk are there to listen.
"It's a really important part of our public service commitment to answer people's questions," says Chalky. "Our customers and users are at the centre of everything we do - if it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be here."
A lifelong interest
Chalky has worked at the Met Office for 31 years, joining straight from school. "Growing up on the west coast of Scotland, I had an active interest in the weather," he says. "So when I saw a job advertised at the Met Office, I applied."
Starting out as a weather observer at airports around Scotland, Chalky saw first-hand the importance of supplying customers with accurate weather information, by collecting observations that would enable aircraft to land safely. From there, he went on to work at weather centres in Glasgow and Aberdeen - and began a career in customer service.
"Aberdeen Weather Centre was a very customer-focused environment, mainly providing weather information for the offshore oil and gas sectors. That's where I really developed my enthusiasm for working with customers and improving the quality of the service the Met Office provides. When I got the opportunity to do that on a bigger platform at our head office, it was just what I was looking for."
All questions answered
Every day brings new challenges for Chalky's teams across the Operations Centre and the Weather Desk - the Met Office's 24/7 helpline and the first point of contact for people getting in touch. Each morning begins with a brief covering everything from IT issues to last night's weather and that day's forecasts. This ensures the customer advisers are ready to answer the up to 1,000 calls that can come in each day.
A proportion of these calls come from the commercial or government organisations that the Met Office supports, such as the transport, energy and retail sectors. "Commercial companies will usually receive a couple of forecasts each day via email or our website," Chalky points out. "Then, if they have any questions about it, or want a bit more detail, they phone up and we can put them through to the meteorologists on call in the Operations Centre."
As well as commercial customers, the Weather Desk receives a large number of questions from the general public - with calls, emails and social media interaction peaking in times of bad weather. Chalky explains that many people use the service as an alternative to finding weather information through the Met Office website, or contact them with problems or complaints.
"We do have people phoning up if a forecast has gone wrong, or if they have constructive criticism about our services. We take all feedback seriously. If there's anything customers think we could improve - such as the performance of our website and forecasting apps - we'll try to feed that in to future updates."
With an open line to callers, the Weather Desk often receives some slightly more unusual requests. "There's almost too many to count," says Chalky, recalling people who phone up to double check if there are thunderstorms forecast for the day because they have a phobia of lightning, and a radio presenter who quizzed them on the Chief Executive's star sign. "Sometimes, people will phone up just to say 'well done, you got the forecast right'," he adds. "It's always great to know when people appreciate what we do."
Number one for customer service
Chalky has big ambitions for customer service at the Met Office. Three years ago, they signed up to a programme called 'Top 50 Companies for Customer Service'. This annual list ranks UK organisations, including big banking and supermarket brands, according to how well they work with customers - and this year, the Met Office came in at number one.
"Customer services is the face of the Met Office," Chalky says, "so it's a huge source of pride for me that we're doing so well. The Weather Desk is a phenomenal team of people who all handle the questions and criticisms they receive really well."
In addition to managing customer services at our head office in Exeter, Chalky also looks after the offices in London and Aberdeen - giving him a wide view of how the Met Office delivers its weather information across the UK. "In many ways, customer services touches everyone's role at the Met Office at some point. I'm on a mission to make sure the end user is considered every step of the way."
Getting in touch
If you have any questions about the services we provide at the Met Office, or would like to offer us some feedback, feel free to contact us.
The Weather Desk is open any time of the day or night, and can be reached by phone, fax and email. Trained staff will be on hand to help you find the information you're looking for.
Phone or fax from the UK:
Phone: 0370 900 0100
Fax: 0370 900 5050
Phone or fax from outside the UK:
Phone: +44 1392 885680
Fax: +44 1392 885681
Find more information at www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/contact