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Federal Benefits Phase-Out: Providing Better Customer Service
>>AMY SUSAN: Hi. I’m Amy Susan, Director of Communications for the Missouri Department of Labor. On this week’s edition of Labor Talk, a podcast where experts discuss workplace issues that affect your life, I’m joined here with Jason Volkart. He’s the IT Director for the Department of Labor as well as the Department of Economic Development. And he’s here today to talk about the federally funded extensions that are about to phase out, starting this month, and some precautions and preparations that we’ve implemented here to help customers make customer service more smoothly more efficient. So tell us how long you’ve been here and what you do here for the Department.
>>JASON VOLKART: Okay, Amy, thank you. I’ve been with the state of Missouri in IT for about 12 years now. I’ve been specifically serving the Department of Labor and Department of Economic Development for about 2 years now.
>>SUSAN: Okay. What does your job entail exactly, what do you oversee?
>>VOLKART: Well, we have two primary systems here for the Department of Labor. One being the Unemployment Insurance system, and the other being the Workers’ Compensation system.
>>SUSAN: Okay. Other than sending out an informational mailer, which we did at the end of last month, what has IT done specifically to prepare for this phase-out?
>>VOLKART: We are expecting a lot of calls coming in with questions about this phase-out. And so, in preparation for that, we will be implementing a new IPCC. The IPCC that we will be upgrading stands for the IP Call Center. What that is, is the system that handles all the calls coming in, it places you on hold and it transfers you to an agent when available.
>>SUSAN: Tell us specifically what this new phone system will allow us to do.
>>VOLKART: There are three primary things this will accomplish. The first one is the number of calls that can be handled per second. Our current system to date, can handle 3 calls per second. The new system we’ll be implementing here in mid-November will be able to handle 14 calls per second. The second thing that it will accomplish is that we’ll be adding more phone lines to the system. Right now there is about 300 lines available. This will add about 92 more lines statewide and allow for claimants to be on hold and also calls will be dialed out and coming in. The last thing that we’ll be adding is gonna be a great feature, and that is the courtesy call-back feature. The courtesy call-back feature will allow a claimant to put in their 10-digit telephone number and receive a call-back when it is time for them to speak with an agent.
>>SUSAN: So why was there a need to implement this new system?
>>VOLKART: In late July, when the extension went through the last time, we had quite a few problems come down with the unprecedented call volume that we had. A lot of claimants calling in were getting a message stating that the number had been disconnected. The reason being, is that there was no room left in the call center for them to be put on hold.
>>SUSAN: And this will allow us to take those calls and give them a proper message which is “All lines are busy, please call back at another time” or…
>>VOLKART: Or get them in the queue and get them to an agent.
>>SUSAN: Or they could leave their 10-digit number and then we could give them a courtesy call-back, right?
>>VOLKART: Correct, correct.
>>SUSAN: Great. What are other states doing, or what are you seeing other states do to prepare for this influx of calls?
>>VOLKART: Well, some other states are also implementing the courtesy call-back feature. They are also adding more phone lines to keep up with the call volume, and some of them also are able to farm out their calls to another agency to assist with handling UI calls. We, here in Missouri, obviously have 4 Regional Claims Center, and we can load-balance those calls between the different claims centers to keep up with the calls.
>>SUSAN: So does it have a rollover feature, is that what you’re describing?
>>VOLKART: Yes, that’s how it does work. It’s a virtual world when it comes to these systems here, and we can just transfer them all to one. If one happens to go down, all of them can be put onto, Jeff City can be transferred to St. Louis, and so forth.
>>SUSAN: Jason, just looking back at some of our data, we anticipate approximately 66,000 people who will not be eligible for any federal benefits, and they could all be calling at the same time wondering where their next check is for the federally funded benefits. What can unemployed Missourians expect from this new system as they start calling?
>>VOLKART: I think the number one thing that they will experience is a much better customer experience satisfaction, knowing that they have a choice here to leave a name and a number and have a call-back to them. I think we’ve all experienced the frustration of being on hold, whether its walking around your house with that phone stuck to your ear, its very frustrating. This call-back feature will allow them to go on about their normal life, and then receive that call-back. The other thing that it will allow, is, its going to eliminate a lot of cell phone minutes that claimants may be using. Its gonna eliminate toll-free charges for the state of Missouri. There are just a lot of benefits to this. And with the added phone lines here we’re going to be getting more people on hold, having that courtesy call-back feature, and its just going to be a much greater experience.
>>SUSAN: And when will this be implemented and fully in place?
>>VOLKART: We are shooting for mid-November, we’re shooting for November 11, and right now we are on target to hit that date.
>>SUSAN: So we will have this prepared and implemented before those phase-out deadlines actually begin?
>>VOLKART: Correct, we will.
>>SUSAN: Well thank you for joining us today. If you guys have any other questions or concerns, you can visit labor.mo.gov, click on News and Notices, and then click on Labor Talk Podcasts.