The Need: All incoming calls in the DLA call center in Battlecreek, MI were received by Federal DLA employees who were spending time answering the questions posed by their callers. Due to the nature of some calls, where extensive research and inquiry was required to answer a customer's request, many call center agents were tied up with one phone call for long periods of time. The result was many incoming calls were experiencing long hold times resulting in hang-ups. The abandon call rate was unacceptable causing a high level of customer dissatisfaction. DLA staff members devised a plan to divide the call center operators into three experience levels based on the nature of the call. DLA partnered with one of our AbilityOne non-profits to handle all level one service calls.
The Project and Results: Our AbilityOne non-profit’s customer service representatives fill the role of on-site level one service operators. The non-profit trained customer services representatives and were up and running in only 10 days. Our 75 employees were able to meet and exceed all of the objectives of the DLA. The abandoned call rate has dropped by 80%. The customer was so pleased with the high level performance and customer satisfaction levels that they consolidated contact center operations into the DLA location in Battlecreek, MI. The AbilityOne support center has expanded by more than 50% to over 125 agents. Our non-profit also operates a live business continuity site with a turnkey operation at their facility as well. The project has been a win-win situation for all parties.
The Need: The EPA needs to inform the general public and industry professionals about lead hazards and their prevention through the National Lead Information Center (NLIC). The Lead Hotline is staffed by information specialists that respond to a variety of questions and requests for information and documents. NLIC operates with funding from the EPA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The Project and Results: Building on its experience with providing front-line customer service and fulfillment functions for the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) e-commerce website, Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ABVI) - Goodwill in Rochester, New York, landed a contract with the EPA to staff the NLIC. ABVI-Goodwill employees respond to 10,000 inquires per month by phone, email, webforms and faxes, and answer incoming questions from federal, state and local governments; the general public; and the private sector regarding lead-based paint regulations and requirements.
ABVI-Goodwill uses an agent greeting phone system that enables call center representatives to know the type of call they will be answering. When an employee becomes competent on one customer service line, the employee is given the opportunity for training and advancement to work on multiple contracts.
ABVI-Goodwill's success with the first EPA contract led to another EPA contract to staff the Toxic Substances Control Act Assistance Information Service hotline. The ABVI-Goodwill team continued to expand its call center program with New York state hotline contracts, including the Civil Service Accident Reporting System and the Growing Up Healthy Hotline for the state insurance department. With these contracts, ABVI-Goodwill employees respond to an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 telephone inquiries each month.
NIB awarded ABVI-Goodwill its first Call Center of Excellence Award in 2006 with a grant for $20,000. Grants are awarded to NIB associated agencies that demonstrate excellence in program operations and the promotion of job opportunities and career training, and can serve as role models to other agencies interested in creating similar programs in their communities. ABVI-Goodwill employees shared their expertise by conducting a call center conference for 40 people from 23 associated agencies. As a result, three other NIB associated agencies have diversified their career offerings and been awarded call center contracts. ABVI-Goodwill is planning future call center programs.
The Need: Our affiliate provides the means to receive and respond to taxpayer telephone requests for all printed IRS forms and publications used by the public to comply with tax filing requirements and obligations.
The Project and Results: The project plan for starting up call-taking activities by our affiliate required that 100% of the incoming call volume be completed by June 1, 2005. This was a transition of calls from a government work force to our affiliate’s workforce. Our affiliate developed its staffing plan through ramp-up at a rate equal to the anticipated call volume provided by the IRS. The Program Manager maintained daily communication with the IRS to ensure that the assumed needs for customer service representatives’ coverage were consistent with the actual needs as they developed. Our affiliate uses a customized Inventory Distribution System used by both the call takers for inventory status and ordering of products and the IRS for order fulfillment.
By utilizing a virtual agent workforce/call center versus a brick and mortar facility, the IRS has achieved monumental improvements in customer service, appropriate staffing against actual volumes, and contingency resources in the event of unexpected surges resulting from emergencies and or emerging policies that impact the volume of calls into the Forms and Publications toll-free line. This contract has received recognition for the innovative approach for employing individuals with disabilities that need or strongly prefer home-based work and received a federal award for Innovative Business Model.
The transitioning of this work to our affiliate allowed for the IRS to better utilize existing internal resources focused on meeting more complex inquiries for the public as it relates to tax concerns.
Today, this Virtual Call Center employs 75 year round and 300 seasonal customer services representatives, during peak volume period of January through April. These customer services representatives are scattered across the Country working from home in 42 States.
The Need: Design and implement a state-of-the-art Call Center operation to manage the PUC’s Customer Choice Hotline. As part of the Call Center operation, our affiliate was asked to develop a literature fulfillment function to provide consumer education material about customer choice. The project required our affiliate’s systems engineers to ensure integration of the PUC’s Customer Account Information (CAI) system.
The Project and Results: Our affiliate was contracted by the Public Utility Commission in 2001 to begin servicing utility customers. A fully functional call center staffed by 75% people with disabilities for direct labor was developed and implemented in 5 months from contract award notice.
CSRs access and enter customer detail remotely
to the State’s server system, capture customer
information requests for literature to a local
database, and access the web to perform research
and provide information to the customer.
Our affiliate reached out through its vast network of referring agencies, including the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), to identify potential CSRs from their pool of persons with disabilities. They conducted a battery of tests and comprehensive interviews to select its CSR team members.
This call center, located in Center City Philadelphia, provided service to more than 200,000 customers per year seeking payment arrangements with their utility bills, utility information, or emergency assistance when their power will be or has been turned off. Staffed by more than 30 customer services representatives, this call center received more than 22,000 calls per month, and sent out 2,300 pieces of fulfillment literature, during the busy season.
Awards & Recognition
“Through innovation and exceptional teamwork, this has become an example of how highly-skilled employees with disabilities can mesh with the existing government workforce and meet the challenges we face today and tomorrow.”
Col. Joseph Cassel, Commander, USMC Defense Logistics Information Service Battlecreek, MI