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David Sims - TMCnet CRM Alert Columnist[April 1, 2005]

EEOC to Debut Controversial Call Center

By David Sims, TMCnet CRM Alert Columnist

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has launched its contractor-operated National Contact Center to help respond to the more than 1 million unsolicited calls the workplace rights enforcement agency receives each year, according to EEOC officials.

The American Federation of Government Employees National Council of EEOC Locals, which has opposed the contact center from the beginning, continues to object to the effort.

Speaking from Lawrence, Kan., where the NCC is located, EEOC Chair Cari M. Dominguez said in a press briefing that the new service would help the agency serve the public better, faster and more efficiently, freeing up EEOC staff members to investigate, mediate and litigate job discrimination charges.

However, the union objects to the contact center contract on the ground that it violates a federal Office of Management and Budget directive requiring agencies to allow federal workers to compete before transferring work to contractors. EEOC officials contended that the contact center involved new work and that no federal employees would lose jobs as a result of outsourcing the project.

EEOC officials say the new service will offer more effective service to the public and new efficiencies will make it possible for EEOC staff to investigate, mediate and litigate job discrimination charges. Not only will the call center free EEOC staff across the country from answering many general inquiries, Pearson's technology will also enable the agency to do a better job of tracking what type of calls it receives and from where.

In addition, Dominguez took some heat from leaders of the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee during a March 25, 2004, hearing for soliciting contact center proposals. They contended that the contact center was part of a broader effort to reform the agency and that EEOC had been warned to consult Congress before proceeding with major changes.

Later, the subcommittee put some strings on EEOCs spending for the contact center, calling for the agency to submit a spending report and quarterly reports before funds would be made available for the center. Among legislators concerns was the possibility that contact center staff members would deliver inferior service and possibly screen out persons with valid job discrimination claims.

Dominguez continued to push for the contact center, making it a top priority during 2004. By late summer, the agency had finished reviewing contractor proposals and officials had briefed the House subcommittee staff on the contact center plan.

For the commission to successfully monitor and advance the security of every workers civil employment rights, we have to break out of that systema system that is fragmented, bureaucratic, parochial and unwieldy, Dominguez said in her remarks before the Sept. 17, 2004, EEOC vote to authorize funding for the contact center.

Members of the public, including employers, can call the NCC toll free at 800-669-4000. The TTY number for individuals with hearing and speech impairments is 800-669-6820.

For 18 months Pearson Government Solutions will operate the contact center on a pilot basis. Awarded a $4.9 million contract in September 2004, Pearson has more than 20 years experience running contact centers for the federal government. The company currently serves 27 government programs in five locations around the United States, according to an EEOC release.

The contact center will assist employees and representatives of the business community, according to Edison Elkins, EEOCs project manager for the NCC. The contact center is meant to serve [EEOCs] entire constituency which includes employers, Elkins said.

Thirty-six customer service representatives including five bilingual Spanish-speaking representatives will staff the contact center from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Representatives will be able to use the services of translators of 150 additional languages to help them assist callers.

NCC agents will answer general inquirieswhich account for 51 percent of callsas well as calls from potential charging parties. With respect to the latter, NCC staff will guide callers through an E-assessment tool to help them determine whether their situation is covered by any of the laws EEOC enforces, Elkins said. The completed questionnaire will then be forwarded to an EEOC district office.

David Sims is contributing editor and CRM Alert columnist for TMCnet.

To discover how contact centers can save money and increase productivity by making the switch to IP Telephony, be sure to attend TMC's IP Contact Center Summit May 24-26, 2005, in Dallas, Texas.

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