In September 2004, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) contracted with NCS Pearson, Inc. (Pearson) to develop, implement, and operate a National Contact Center (NCC) to upgrade customer service, improve human capital effectiveness, and deliver accurate and consistent service to its customers. This contract was created as a two-year pilot project, with an option to extend for three additional years. In February 2005, the NCC commenced initial operations with seven field offices. On March 21, 2005, the NCC started accepting all calls on the EEOC's general inquiry lines, which include two national toll-free lines serving both voice and Text Telephone (TTY) calls.
In September 2005, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the EEOC contracted with Job Performance Systems, Inc. (JPS) to evaluate the NCC's impact on EEOC staff, operations, and customers. The purpose of this evaluation was to provide EEOC management with information that would aid in deciding whether to exercise the option to extend the Pearson Contract.
Since the NCC's purpose is to improve efficiency in field offices and enhance customer service, the JPS team focused on the following topics in the evaluation:
- NCC implementation and operations
- NCC impact on Headquarters operations and staff
- NCC impact on field operations and staff
- NCC impact on EEOC customers
Context for the Evaluation
The EEOC planned the NCC's pilot year of operations as the time to develop, test, and refine standard operating procedures (SOP) and business rules; develop and refine scripts; and develop an effective working relationship between the EEOC and NCC. To allow time for this development process, the EEOC limited the number of calls directed to the NCC in the initial months to only those received on the two toll-free general inquiry lines, and then later phased in additional unsolicited calls from field offices. The EEOC and NCC have continued to implement modifications to initial systems and procedures throughout the first year of NCC operations.
The JPS Team conducted fieldwork from October 2005 through February 2006, during which the NCC was still in its first year of operations. The team utilized baseline data to evaluate the NCC's impact on EEOC operations and staff; unfortunately, some baseline data had been destroyed and other data either had major data entry errors or were confounded by other factors such as attrition and changes in EEOC office intake procedures. As a result, the team relied primarily on interviews, focus groups, and surveys in conducting this assessment.
The JPS team reviewed background documents and conducted interviews at EEOC Headquarters, seven field offices, and the NCC. The team also facilitated focus groups at several field offices and the NCC and administered surveys to field personnel.
Team members documented the NCC's work processes and the technology used to support them. The team also reviewed a variety of metrics, including call volume and call duration. In addition, the team conducted remote call monitoring and side-by-side observations of Customer Service Representatives (CSR) and reviewed training, feedback, and other support provided to CSRs.
Findings and Conclusions
Implementation of the NCC
The NCC has implemented the recommendations contained in the Assessment of a National Contact Center Solution for EEOC (2003 Assessment Report). As a result, the NCC is now the EEOC's central point of contact. Unsolicited calls to the EEOC's two general information toll-free numbers, originally routed to field offices, are now immediately answered at the NCC. By implementing the NCC, the EEOC moves one-step closer to meeting E-Government expectations.
Comparison of Estimated NCC Call Processing Statistics with Actual Statistics
The EEOC has implemented the recommendations in the 2003 Assessment Report, and Pearson has met most of the contractual performance measures, but the NCC is not receiving the call volume projected in the 2003 Assessment Report, in part due to the business decision to limit initial calls to the NCC during the pilot phase of operations.
During the first year of operations, the CSRs handled 269,693 calls, far lower than the 1.2 million calls projected by the 2003 Assessment Report. The JPS Team estimates that the NCC presently saves the EEOC approximately 13,964 field staff hours, or the equivalent of 6.71 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) employees. Before the decision to limit call volume, the 2003 Assessment Report projected that the NCC would save 43,224 field staff hours, the equivalent of 21 FTEs. Headquarters is planning to launch a major advertising campaign by July 2006 to increase awareness of the toll-free 800 number and, therefore, call volume.
Impact of the NCC on Headquarters Operations
The NCC had minimal impact on operations at Headquarters. There appears to have been a decrease in controlled correspondence and an increase in other communications such as web hits, which could be partially attributable to the NCC; however, there are no data to support this possibility. Charge receipts for the 2005 fiscal year are down when compared to previous years, but this appears to be part of a normal cycle. Further, the overall pattern of monthly charge receipts since inception of the NCC is generally consistent with previous years. The EEOC never anticipated that the NCC would have a significant, direct impact on Headquarters.
Impact of the NCC on Field Operations
Employees indicate that they have experienced some reduction in call volume. Data from two offices maintaining call data indicate that, when comparing calls pre- and post-NCC, one office has received more calls post-NCC, while the other has received fewer calls. Offices are beginning to redirect callers to the NCC after business hours; however, the number of calls that CSRs are handling has not significantly increased.
Impact of the NCC on Field Staff
Some offices have experienced savings in Investigator and/or support staff time because of the NCC, but many Investigators commented that the forms they receive from the NCC often contain inaccuracies and incomplete information. Many offices tend to use only a portion of the information provided, causing duplication and in some cases, more work.
Managers and employees understand the NCC's purpose; however, they expected that the NCC would lighten workload for field offices far more than it actually has.
Integration of the EEOC and NCC
Communication between the NCC and EEOC offices is not efficient. There is not an established process to communicate feedback and share knowledge and information. Employees at the NCC also do not share a common understanding of their role or the work of the EEOC, which limits their effectiveness in supporting the EEOC. The technologies across the EEOC and NCC are not well integrated, preventing a seamless operation and causing duplication of work at EEOC offices and the NCC. The NCC also does not provide regular trend reports to the EEOC.
Impact of the NCC on EEOC Customers
Both the EEOC offices and the NCC are serving customers. The EEOC offices appear to continue to provide timely customer service for walk-ins and first-time customers calling on the telephone.
The EEOC recently collected customer satisfaction ratings on the NCC, which found the NCC rated above average compared to other Federal agencies and service industries in the private sector; still, operations at the NCC can be improved. CSRs handle calls on a consistent basis, but need more training in soft skill and accurately and consistently handling unique inquiries. In addition, metrics assessing CSRs are manually gathered and the ratings are subjective.