Speed-Dialing Agency Call Centers

WASHINGTON (05/24/2000) - As agencies continue to downsize, the need for more efficient and customer-friendly call centers is growing.

The U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service have tapped industry to create call centers that can respond in less than 20 seconds to a customer's question, said John Kathman, the director of call center operations for Datatrac Information Services.

Datatrac handles about 15 million calls a year for the Labor and INS call centers.

By quickly routing calls and linking to agency databases, representatives can access information to help people find office locations, fill out forms, file documentation and get in touch with a person in a requested department, such as an agent who specializes in approving green-card applications, Kathman said.

At Labor, customer service representatives, trained by Datatrac, respond to queries on matters ranging from where to find federal assistance after being laid off to filing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint.

A Datatrac supervisor monitors customer service representative calls, and representatives are given constructive criticism. "Even the difficult callers are calling for a reason, and it is our job to make sure they get the information they need," said Leslie LeCompte, who helped establish the Labor and INS call centers.

Datatrac never records customer's personal information and serves simply as a link between the customer and the appropriate agency department, LeCompte said.

When INS implemented its system, many agency representatives were fearful of losing their jobs, a spokesman said. "Instead, no one lost their jobs, and agency employees were able to switch their focus to the problems that needed their attention," he said.

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