• March 1, 2018
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Running a Contact Center from the Inside Out

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Does Televerde have any plans to expand the program further, possibly beyond the prison population to include other underserved communities, like the disabled or veterans?

We are always looking at other opportunities within the corrections community. We have discussed the model in other countries across the globe where we have operations and have started to look at ways to apply what we do with other underserved communities.

What lessons can other contact center operators take away from Televerde’s experience with this particular program?

If you have the right people, processes, and technologies in place, anything is possible. Someone shouldn’t automatically be precluded or discarded based on background alone.

Leonard Klie is the editor of CRM magazine. He can be reached at lklie@infotoday.com.

The Visually Impaired Can Also Be a Valuable Call Center Resource

Adaptive technology, equipment, and expert training empower businesses and the blind  | By Del Williams

Businesses and organizations looking to outsource their customer support are finding expert help in an often overlooked place—right here in the United States among the nation’s blind and visually impaired. 

While the unemployment rate for the blind hovers between 60 percent and 70 percent nationally, advances in adaptive technology, such as screen magnifiers and screen readers, have recently leveled the playing field for this group.

Now a few agencies, including Mississippi Industries for the Blind (MIB), are providing organizations with expert outsourced call center help by hiring and training those with visual impairments on state-of-the-art call center/electronic communication equipment and adaptive technology. When organizations take advantage of this skilled resource for ongoing or project-based call center work, it is surprisingly effective and offers a chance to bring those with visual impairments back into the workforce.

“Outsourcing our overflow calls to a call center during open enrollment is one of the most critical contracts we have to service more clients across the state of Mississippi,” says Amanda Ward, director of Mississippi’s State Health Insurance Program (SHIP), which has contracted with MIB to run its contact center that counsels people on Medicare and Medicaid benefits and helps them with enrollment and appeals. “It is a very busy time of year for our coordinators and counselors, and it would be difficult to reach those we need to without the added support.”

When selecting a call center outsource partner, SHIP had some very specific needs. “We sought a call center partner that could handle a high volume of calls, as well as offer secure technology to support the system and the platforms we work on,” Ward says. “But we also needed a partner that would take the time to work with our clients in a friendly, educated, and patient manner.”

Ward, of course, turned to MIB, a non-funded agency of the state of Mississippi with a mission to train and employ the blind and visually impaired. 

While the agency has provided job training and jobs for 75 years, today one of the fastest-growing areas of the organization is in call center operations, including inbound and outbound call support, email, and electronic communications.

Among the adaptations that enable this successful collaboration are PC monitors with screen magnification software and screen reading software that uses synthesized speech. 

To ensure quality, all of the call center’s agents receive extensive customer service training, as well as project-specific training as needed. They are also routinely monitored.

According to Ward, several of the call center’s staff are trained and certified to counsel specifically for the SHIP program and take complex calls that can each last up to 90 minutes or more. MIB’s call center “provides the same level of service that my SHIP counselors do,” she states. “As a result, there is no lapse in service and nothing missing between what a client would receive if they walked into a coordinator’s office.”

The call center counsels hundreds of clients annually, providing detailed explanations of benefits, prescription drug plans, and enrollment procedures.

To help track program goals, the call center also provides performance statistics as required. Call tracking shows how many phone calls they receive daily, weekly, or monthly and how long each call lasts. “Seeing calls that last an hour or more really shows the level of service and dedication the MIB call center specialists have for our program and clients,” Ward says.

Ward also commends MIB for its ongoing investment in equipment and training to ensure quality service. “I recently had a chance to tour the MIB call center,” she recalls. “It is a beautiful facility. They make sure they keep their technology up to date so it is always compatible with my platform online.”

The bottom line, however, is twofold for the SHIP program. “We could not reach the number of people we do each year if it were not for the seamless support of our partners at the Mississippi Industries for the Blind call center,” Ward concludes. “It is also a great plus that we are helping to empower visually challenged individuals in our state.”

For more information about contact center outsourcing through Mississippi Industries for the Blind, call 866-859-4461 or visit the organization’s website at www.msblind.org.

Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, Calif.

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