Commission Meeting of February 19, 2008 on Contracts for Customer Response Function, FEPA Budget
NAOMI C. EARP Chair
LESLIE E. SILVERMAN Vice Chair
STUART J. ISHIMARU Commissioner
CHRISTINE M. GRIFFIN Commissioner
REED RUSSELL Legal Counsel
BERNADETTE B. WILSON Program Analyst
This transcript was produced from a video tape provided by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
CHAIR EARP: Good morning, the meeting will now come to order. Good morning and welcome.
In accordance with the Sunshine Act, today's meeting is open to public observation of the Commission's deliberations and voting.
At this time, I'm going to ask Bernadette Wilson to announce any notation votes that have taken place since the last Commission meeting.
MS. WILSON: Good morning, Madam Chair, Madam Vice Chair, Commissioners. I'm Bernadette Wilson from the Executive Secretariat.
We'd like to remind our audience that questions and comments from the audience are not permitted during the meeting, and we ask that you carry on any conversations outside the meeting room, departing and reentering as quietly as possible.
Also, please take this opportunity to turn your cell phones off, or to vibrate mode.
I would also like to remind the audience that in addition to the elevators, in case of emergency, there are stairways down the halls to the right and left as you exit this room.
Additionally, the restrooms are down the hall to the right.
During the period, February 13, 2008, through February 18, 2008, the Commission acted on two items by notation vote:
Approved litigation on one case; and,
Approved the Spring 2008 regulatory agenda.
Madam Chair, it is appropriate at this time to have a motion to close a portion of the next Commission meeting in case there are any closed meeting agenda items.
CHAIR EARP: Thank you, Ms. Wilson. Do I hear a motion?
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: So moved.
CHAIR EARP: Is there a second?
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: Second.
CHAIR EARP: Any discussion?
(No audible response.)
Hearing none, all those in favor say, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIR EARP: Opposed?
(No audible response.)
CHAIR EARP: The ayes have it and the motion is carried.
Today's agenda will cover two items. Specifically, we are here to vote on, number one, the 2008 State and Local Budget Allocations and Designation of two new Fair Employment Practice Agencies.
Today's vote is necessary due to continuation of that agenda item from the February 13 meeting.
Number two, we are here to vote on the Obligation of Funds for Short and Long-term Solutions to Support the Commission's Call Answering, and Response Function.
At the conclusion of last week's meeting, OFP was tasked with an action item regarding the allocation of the 2007 year-end funds for FEPAs, for outreach projects.
It is noted that the 2007 FEPA budget is not before the Commission, and is not properly noticed. However, some limited discussion is appropriate due to questions raised by my fellow Commissioners about year-end spending.
Consistent with the understanding that the 2007 budget is not before the Commission, but Commissioners are entitled to have their limited questions answered, I will now ask Mr. Nick Inzeo to report on the 2007 outreach plans.
MR. INZEO: Good morning, Madam Chair, Vice Chair, Commissioners. I'm Nicholas Inzeo, I'm here with Michael Dougherty to report on the information that you requested on the FY-2007 FEPA outreach plans.
I did have the opportunity yesterday to send around to you a table containing the information that we had as of yesterday. As I indicated in my e-mail, we were going to double-check this morning, we did. There were additional plans, and then this morning, after we sent that e-mail, we received by fax, from the Indianapolis District Office, written copies of plans of eight other FEPAs.
So I have given all of your offices a copy of the table that we sent around yesterday and bolded in that table is any changes that we made today.
The -- what it shows is, that of the 94 FEPAs, we have -- EEOC has received or been told of 91 plans, and that we have here 80 of them in some written form.
We will continue reviewing them, as we indicated that we would, to determine whether they are sufficient. And where we find that they're not, we will work with the District Office and work with the FEPAs, to ensure that they will be, and also to ensure that there will be a methodology for measuring the impact of the outreach.
As I indicated in the last meeting, we will circulate, within a month, our findings on all of that especially in terms of the sufficiency and the methodology for measuring the impact, since we have less information about that currently.
CHAIR EARP: Okay, thank you, Nick. We will now have questions or comments from my fellow Commissioners in five-minute intervals, as is the usual practice, starting with the Vice Chair.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: I have no questions at this time.
CHAIR EARP: Commissioner Ishimaru.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Can I defer to Commissioner Griffin?
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Wow, that's a first. God, I'm not prepared to go first. I expect everyone to say everything I'm going to say, before I -- before it gets to me, so -- but, Nick --
MR. INZEO: Yes?
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Eighty plans -- do we have all of these?
MR. INZEO: Yes, you do.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: We do. And even though -- I don't think 80 people have -- 80 people -- 80 entities have vouchered for the money. You still have 80 plans?
MR. INZEO: That's right.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: And we have them all.
MR. INZEO: That's right.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Someone's analyzing them for sufficiency. Can you just tell us a little bit about what -- what the criteria is. I know it's probably minimal, but what -- what exactly is it?
MR. INZEO: Because -- because the plans are different, I mean, there are some that talk about reprinting brochures. And we will -- we will work with the District Office, work with the FEPA, just to make sure that, that would be a reasonable expenditure. You know, use of the brochures -- EEOC uses many brochures. But we, you know, we -- in terms of whether it's sufficient or not, you know, is it a reasonable expenditure of funds for the purpose of outreach. That's what we'd be looking at. In others, they range from, you know, putting on events in certain parts of their jurisdiction, working with under-served communities. All of those I think are important outreach events and they would be sufficient. We, you know, it'll be a matter of looking at each one in terms of what activity they're doing, how they're using the money. You know, we -- I don't think I've seen anything yet that I would consider to be insufficient. Because they are --
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: You haven't seen anything that's insufficient?
MR. INZEO: Well, in terms of -- in terms of their plan. If they --
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Well, because a lot of the -- you have marked several of them insufficient.
MR. INZEO: We didn't mark yes or no. In many of them, it was because we didn't -- we hadn't seen them at the time we -- we did that.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: What about the ones marked, no?
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Yes, that's --
MR. INZEO: As to -- as to the one's marked no, I would -- I would assume that they're -- that we did not have enough information in the written document to say yes.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: All right, so we shouldn't assume that if it doesn't say -- if it doesn't have Y in that column, that it's automatically a no?
MR. INZEO: Right. We didn't have enough to say yes, so, we considered that a no.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Okay, so it is -- technically it is a no?
MR. INZEO: Right.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Okay, all right. That's what I assumed and so. And as you -- I think you mentioned, most don't have any methodology for measuring their impact?
MR. INZEO: That's right.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Okay. Can this money be used -- could this money be used to pay themselves back the things they did in -- earlier in the year? Let me make it more concrete. New York's plan, which you -- you've actually said is insufficient, is a list of -- and they did voucher and they were paid, and they're a state entity, so whatever, $5,800. They -- they sent in a list of things that they did in `07, you know, beginning in January. So I was just curious, can they -- are you allowed to go back and pay yourself back for activities already performed, or is this only for things from the B going forward?
I'm -- I'm curious. I don't know the answer. I'm not -- this isn't a trick.
MR. DOUGHERTY: Commissioner, I don't recall specifically in New York, but if it did -- if, in fact, they had talked about something before the execution of the amendment, the modification, then I would’ve probably classified that as a no, so, they -- it would have to have occurred after the -- after the period that the modification was executed. I don't specifically recall New York, writing something.
MR. INZEO: And we would also, Commissioner, want to make sure that, that they -- that those were done in 2007, and not 2008.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: All right. Well, I appreciate the work that went into getting these plans and putting the, you know, the chart together and the analysis and everything.
I just -- I just want to say that I -- I think that it's kind of a shame that we're in a position where we voted for something and specifically stated the measurement impact statement in the vote, because that was something that was actually offered up by the leadership of the FEPAs, when we were going through this process. That, you know, that was their argument that, you know, their numbers were down because they didn't -- they didn't have enough money to do outreach, and that -- but they couldn't prove that. It was all anecdotal and that the reason that they needed all this money to do outreach was so, you know, that they could document that. And they -- they offered that up, so, that wasn't something that we imposed upon them. They said that they were going to do this so that they could demonstrate to us the following year. So, I feel like we're going to be back. I know everyone's going to say, there's not going to be extra money this year, but we have heard that before.
And, so, if we're in the same boat, we are again, once again, you know, looking at anecdotal information about, you know, why the numbers may be down.
So, I just -- I think it's a shame. And I -- I kind of resent that, you know, when we vote on something and say something specific, it's -- it's our responsibility, you know, meaning the four of us up here, to go back and check to see if -- if that's actually, in fact, been done.
You know, I would’ve hoped that you did that, and more importantly, that the FEPAs who decided that's what they wanted to spend the money on and so that they could measure the impact, would have actually done it, and would have developed plans, frankly, because it looks like a lot of these were thrown together the day after our meeting.
So, anyway, that's all I have to say. I look forward to, maybe, some updates on how this goes forward.
MR. INZEO: We will -- we will update you, Commissioner.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: All right, thanks.
CHAIR EARP: As the 2007 FEPA budget is not before the Commission, and we are here today to vote on the 2008 State and Local Budget Allocations, and the Designation of Two New Fair Employment Practice Agencies, I'd like to call for an end to discussion.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Could I pull up my five minutes for the second round? I don't mean to prolong this, because I know we have other issues on the agenda, and I will be brief.
I found this whole episode to be somewhat troubling as -- as you might have guessed. And I would hope that during the course of this next year, we as a body, as an Agency, will start addressing some of these issues of how we allocate money to the FEPAs, and how we do so in a productive manner that encourages people with less capacity to do more, and people with more capacity to do more, so we can work in partnership. And I hope we can do this in a productive manner, so we don't come back at this time next year and have the same discussion, because obviously it's been frustrating for all of us, including everybody at this table, many who've worked through the weekend and the holiday to get this information to us. So, I just hope we don't end up, again, in this position. I do note that in the 2008 -- or 2008 budget, that we have in front of us, there's some $20,000 for outreach that's in there. And I hope that, when that money is allocated to various FEPAs, that we look again to this prospective view of, how do we best use this money? And not that it's sort of passed out, allocated to various groups, but how do we use this effectively to actually increase the outreach?
So with that, Madam Chair, I thank your indulgence.
CHAIR EARP: Thank you, Commissioner.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Hey, can I attach onto his -- just to add on to his. And when we do, I think, you know, part of the issue is the language from the vote wasn't in the contract modification language. And I'm -- I'm not sure if it really belongs there, but I -- I would think that would be another way of reminding them that they're getting this money to do a specific thing, and -- again, I don't know if it belongs there or not, but there should be some reminder to them somewhere along the way, that this is what we voted for.
CHAIR EARP: Thank you, Commissioner.
That ends the discussion regarding the 2008 State and Local Budget Allocation and a Designation of Two New Fair Employment Practice Agencies.
I’d like to ask for a motion to approve the budget.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: So moved.
CHAIR EARP: Do I hear a second?
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Second.
CHAIR EARP: All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIR EARP: Is there more discussion?
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: You can't have discussion after a vote.
CHAIR EARP: Okay, I just want to make sure. All in favor say, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIR EARP: Opposed?
(No audible response.)
CHAIR EARP: It's unanimous; the vote carries. Thank you.
MR. INZEO: Thank you, Commissioners.
MR. DOUGHERTY: Thank you very much Commissioners.
CHAIR EARP: We are also here to vote on the Obligation of Funds for the Short- and Long-term Solutions to Support the Commission's Call Answering, and Response Function.
The proposed short-term solution is a noncompetitive contract for temporary, interactive voice response for the answering of our phone calls.
The long-term solution is a competitive, comprehensive contract for technology support for our customer response function. In short, we are voting for funds to continue the hosting of our IVR by Vangent for a 10-1/2 month period, under a sole source contract beginning in March 2008.
And, we're voting on an open competition for a longer term contract that will provide support for the call response system for several years beyond that. The obligation of funds for these contracts is essential for us to effectively and efficiently handle the volume of calls that come into our field offices.
That number has increased and is estimated to currently be at about 90,000 calls per month. This includes the calls that formerly went to the National Contact Center.
With the closing of the National Contact Center in December, the Commission approved the continued hosting of our interactive voice response system with Vangent for three months.
Since the closing of the NCC, calls have been going to our IVR, and those calls not resolved by the IVR have been routed to the 53 offices around the country.
We've also hired temporary employees to help with the influx of calls to the field. What the Commission is voting on today, is the obligation of funds so we can continue to move forward to manage our call volume and response process beyond the current three-month hosting of the IVR.
We are thus proposing that the next phase be an additional 10-1/2 month contract, with Vangent, to continue hosting the IVR, in support of our customer response system.
If approved, this temporary hosting of the IVR will run through January 2009. Calls will be routed through the IVR, and then will be automatically distributed to the 15 EEOC offices where we will have newly hired and trained EEOC staff, who will be able to respond to the public.
During this period, we propose to contract for a long-term technology solution through full and open competition in the marketplace. This will provide us with the best avenue to obtain support for our in-house call answering function.
I've determined to consider these matters today by a single vote. The reason for this is obvious. The short-term and the long-term solutions are intertwined. They are interdependent. They depend on each other. They cannot be separated.
The short-term solution is a bridge. It is a bridge that requires an investment in staff and other capitol expense, such as space build out, that will carry over to a long-term outcome.
If there is no support for a long-term contract, there is no need for a bridge to get there.
I would also note that one item that we had planned to vote today, that is, an extension of the contract for our Right Now software support, through January of 2009, will not be considered today, but will be presented for a vote in the future. That support is paid up through the end of the fiscal year, and we are currently discussing future options with the Right Now Company.
I would urge my fellow Commissioners to consider the benefit of what we are voting on. Not just for a month, not just for three months, or for a year, but for years into the future to ensure that we are as responsible as we can be, to those who seek assistance and information from us. Stability and predictability in answering the phones, are fundamental to good management. I hope my fellow Commissioners agree with me, as to the importance of approving these funding requests.
I'm now going to turn the meeting over to Cynthia Pierre, Director of Field Management Programs.
MS. PIERRE: Good morning, Madam Chair, Madam Vice Chair, Commissioner Ishimaru, and Commissioner Griffin.
I am Cynthia Pierre, Director of Field Management Programs in the Office of Field Programs. I am -- thank you for the opportunity to address the Commission this morning.
I'm here with Nicholas Inzeo and Brett Brenner, from the Office of Field Programs, to seek authorization for obligation of funds to award technology support contracts to facilitate the work of the EEOC employees, who will comprise the in-house customer response team. The need for this authorization was described in the management plan for the migration of the EEOC customer response function that was delivered to you on December 20, 2007. Our request has two parts: The first part of the request authorizes a full and open competition to seek a 64-month contract for full service technology support of the in-house customer response function. The 64-month contract consists of a 16-month base period, followed by 4 12-month option periods. The second part of the request is the obligation of funds for a sole source contract with the incumbent vendor to continue to host the EEOC's interactive voice response, or IVR servers, for the period March 20, 2008, through January 31, 2009.
As you are aware, on December 12, 2007, the Commission approved a sole source arrangement with Vangent, Incorporated, for three months, extended hosting and support of EEOC-owned IVR servers. Following the expiration of the full service contract, which had also provided for automatic call distribution, computer telephony integration, software and engineering support and staffing.
Since December 20, 2007, English and Spanish calls have -- to the EEOC's toll-free number, have continued to be routed through the IVR, for initial resolution, allowing for a substantial reduction in the number of general inquiry calls to the field. The IVR allows the EEOC to be available to the public 24 hours a day, providing recorded information concerning the Agency and the laws we enforce. The IVR has historically reduced the volume of calls being routed to the NCC and the EEOC offices, thus reducing the burden on the field. Calls not resolved by the IVR, are routed by our telecommunications provider to the nearest of the 53 EEOC field offices. We have also hired 37 temporary employees in the field, to assist 31 offices with high call volumes during this transition. We've provided offices with a short-term training program to quickly orient the temporary employees, and provided basic scripts to assist in handling phone calls. The contracts for the temporary hires expire on March 14, 2008, and the temporary IVR hosting arrangement will expire on March 19, 2008.
To further reduce the burden on the field to answer calls and mail out questionnaires during this transition period, we worked closely with the Office of Research, Information, and Planning, and the Office of Information Technology to develop and implement methods to provide online, interactive pre-screening and access to the EEOC uniform intake questionnaire on the EEOC's public website. Since December 20, 2007, visitors to the EEOC Website can go through an electronic pre-screening by accessing www.eeoc.gov/eas, or they may directly access an electronic version of the uniform questionnaire via www.eeoc.gov/form. The electronic questionnaire can be completed online, printed and mailed to the appropriate EEOC office as identified by the program. Potential charging parties who call the field offices are pre-screened, and are given the direct web-link to the uniform questionnaire, to complete, print, and mail to the EEOC office that provided the information of the website.
We have trained trainers from each of the 15 districts, completed the selection process for the 61 information intake representatives, and are ready to issue offers. In order to be ready to start handling calls in the 15 districts in early March 2008, we have hired two of the three planned management staff, to assist in the design and delivery of training and in the transition, implementation and support of the customer response operation across the 15 EEOC districts. The customer response management staff will work closely with the IIRs to help them utilize a web-hosted, knowledge-based and customer relations management system, for access to scripts as well as recording and reporting of caller information.
Arrangements for space, equipment, and other logistics to support the EEOC customer response team are on track. A management team of five directors -- district directors and one Headquarters program director has been established to develop the management plan and performance expectations for the customer response team.
As mentioned earlier, a request to procure two levels of technology support for the EEOC's in-house customer response team is currently before the Commission. The request for obligation of funds to conduct a full and open competition for a five-year contract to host the technology needed to fully support the EEOC's customer response function, is integrally related to the request for obligation of funds to obtain a sole source contract with the incumbent vendor to continue to provide the IVR hosting, from March 20, 2008, through January 31, 2009. The IVR hosting provides the bridge service needed for minimal technology support during this transition period.
The performance work statement for long-term technology support sets forth the requirements for full service implementation and operation of the in-house call answering customer response activity, and is flexible enough to allow vendors to propose their best possible solution and not feel limited to EEOC's existing technology. The full and open procurement process for a contract of this complexity generally lasts about six months. Once the contract is awarded, the selected vendor will need adequate time to set up its solution, train Commission staff, and transition to its services and equipment. We have provided four months for the start-up process based on best industry estimates.
The sole source contract with Vangent, Incorporated will allow the EEOC to retain the customer service and technological benefits of access to the EEOC-owned IVR, while avoiding the four-month interruption in service that would be required before EEOC could set up its own in-house hosting arrangement. Also, an analysis of the cost to host the IVR ourselves revealed minimal savings in cost. The services provided by the IVR are an integral part of the management plan that will allow the Agency to provide adequate customer service to the public, while also moving forward to bring the call answering function in-house as expeditiously as possible.
In view of the above circumstances, and the challenges we face, we urgently seek the authorization to obligate funds for a full and open competition for technology support of the in-house call answering customer response function, and, concurrently, the obligation of funds for a sole source contract with Vangent, Incorporated, to host and provide maintenance, software, and engineering support for the EEOC's interactive voice response server, for the period March 20, 2008, through January 31, 2009.
CHAIR EARP: Thank you, Cynthia. We will now have statements, questions, or comments from my fellow Commissioners in five-minute segments, as is the usual practice, based on seniority, starting with the Vice Chair.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: Thank you, Cynthia. Thanks for your testimony and all your work on this.
I have no statement, just a couple of questions. Is the system we have now that you described, the IVR in combination with the temps working -- it's sort of a multiple part question -- are people using the online questionnaire? And besides making offers to the IIRs, what will the change of vote approved today mean? You know, ultimately, or how will -- how will that be different?
MS. PIERRE: Okay. First the people are using the online questionnaire. I've had OIT to provide us with some reports on how many visitors to the site, and how many people have actually downloaded the questionnaire.
I got a report in mid-January, you know, be getting another one soon through mid-February, but the first report, I believe, was for the first 20 days or so of operations. It showed over 22,000 visitors to the site for accessing our interactive pre-screening and over 8,000 who actually had downloaded the questionnaire.
In terms of what we -- what would we be getting? Or, what would be different?
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: Did you answer if it's working, the system?
MS. PIERRE: Yes, I'm sorry, yes. It is working. We've gotten very few complaints, other than sometimes people aren't able to get through on the phones. It was, maybe, a technological glitch and we're able to resolve that pretty quickly.
But, in terms of how we've set it up to work, it seems to be working pretty well, except that -- of course the call's coming -- going through the IVR and being routed to the fields. Technologically that's working fine.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: Okay, but if -- if we approve the vote today, what -- how will that, I mean, what will change? What will be different?
MS. PIERRE: If you approve the vote today for the IVR hosting, there would be no change, because we're just asking for an extension of the arrangement we have now, at the same price that we have now, through January 31, 2009.
Now, you're asking about the second contract, how that would be different?
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: I thought that there was a difference between what we're doing right now, and the interim, or short-term plan?
MS. PIERRE: No, we will be doing the -- we will be doing some additional things, you know, but it's not tied to the cost for -- host for Vangent hosting the IVR.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: Okay.
MS. PIERRE: In other words, once we bring the intake information representatives on board, they will have access to the Right Now technology that we have, which is the knowledge-based and customer relations management system, but we have already paid for support through Vangent…
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: Right.
MS. PIERRE: …through the end of September, so, that's not part of the IVR hosting contract.
MR. INZEO: Commissioner, two -- I think there'd be, in terms of short-term -- currently, when the calls come into the IVR, they're point -- they're then sent to out to 53 offices. Under this arrangement, they'll go to the 15 offices with the IIR -- IIRs who will be more extensively trained.
Once the long-term contract is put in place, then we will also -- we will have the advantage of all of the technology indicated in the long-term contract including, you know, being able to send calls to the 15 locations. Plus, if a location is busy, to send them some -- somewhere where the call can be handled immediately.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: My understanding from the past was that -- and currently we have temps and other people answering the phone with the benefit of no real technology.
MS. PIERRE: That's correct.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: That, in the short-term solution, they'll have the benefit of some technology, so that they can read the scripts and they'd have to fill it out manually; is that correct?
MS. PIERRE: Well, they will be able -- they will have access to the scripts, right in the knowledge base. They will not have access to the additional technology that would allow them to manipulate the knowledge base a lot more quickly to have what we call, screen pops, which automatically -- information is automatically populated on the screen when the caller comes in.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: Right.
MS. PIERRE: So it saves them the time to have to ask a number of questions. They can just verify the information with the caller.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: Okay.
MS. PIERRE: And if they're looking up past history of contacts, that information is automatically populated -- it was automatically populated in the past. Currently, they would have to look that information up manually with the system.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: Okay. I see my time's up, so I guess I'll get to my other questions if they're not answered, in the next round.
CHAIR EARP: Commissioner Ishimaru.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Well, let me -- before I get into my statement, let me follow up on the Vice Chair's questions.
It's my understanding that, with the short-term solution, the -- the representative will have the same basic technology that was at the Call Center for the first two years of operation, that is, they will have access to this database that has scripts in it, so they can get the information they need to answer the questions, right?
MS. PIERRE: Right.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: And, that the screen pops, as they're called, are demographic information that, that saves the operator time in filling out the form of who is calling, where do they live, what their phone number is, what demographic characteristics they might have…
MS. PIERRE: Right.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: …but it doesn't affect -- it's my understanding that it doesn't affect the ability of the operator, our employees, to use the database of scripts, that they can still pull up the scripts with the same ease that they -- that is normal. Is that right?
MS. PIERRE: That's correct.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Okay, so -- so this short-term solution doesn't improve the ability of our people, our employees, or of the operators at the call center, to pull up scripts, because they -- they're able to do that just as easy under the short-term solution, as has been the practice for the last three years.
MS. PIERRE: Under the short-term solution, the IVR would be pointing the calls to the 15 districts, which is a little different from what is happening now. And when the -- when the calls are answered in the 15 districts, we won't have automatic rollover, as we had before. The calls will not know which agent to go to. It will just go to one number and then rollover to each subsequent number, as they're available. So, the --
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Within a certain office?
MS. PIERRE: Within a certain office. So, the automatic call distribution won't be available in this interim. And the skills-based routing of the calls won't be available in this short-term, or interim.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Skills-based routing?
MS. PIERRE: This is the routing that is sort of the -- I guess they call it, intelligent routing, or smart routing. When it routes to the, say, the bilingual person, it would -- when the bilingual operator is available, it would go to that phone. We won't have that capability in the interim solution.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Right, but is there capability beyond bilingual versus not, or is --
MS. PIERRE: What the other one, in terms of, we call it skills-based, is it's the agent available option where the -- when the calls come in, if someone is not signed on to take calls, it won't go to that phone, okay? It will go to the agent that's -- that's available.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Right, but skills-based routing seems to indicate that, that from the IVR -- from the person making the choices, before they get to an operator, that the -- that the call will be sent to the most appropriate operator, which I assume that's what skill-based routing -- and there's a gentleman in back of you nodding his head, because I think he knows something about call centers.
MS. PIERRE: Right.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: But, here, does skill-based routing -- do we -- did we use that to point calls to a certain operator who had specific expertise in an issue? Or, was it to find the next available body to answer the call?
MS. PIERRE: Right. When we had the full service solution --
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: In the past, right.
MS. PIERRE: Right, in the past.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: All right.
MS. PIERRE: We had leads who answered more complex questions so, calls could come in and be directed to the leads, rather than to the regular --
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Did the system do that automatically?
MS. PIERRE: I'll see -- I'll ask Brett to help me with that question.
MR. BRENNER: To some extent. When we had the full service, contracted-out solution, skills based routing was generally used, utilized to -- to separate out bilingual, non-bilingual.
Now, in our solution, we'll be leaning on -- in the long term, we'll be leaning on more of the skills-based routing, because we will have a dispersed model with the -- using the 15 different offices and the skills-based routing in this instance, we'll look at the area code and the phone number from where the person is calling and distribute them on a geographic preference to begin with, and they will -- the skills-based routing will look at that area code and say, you should go to office X. It will look at the operators in office X, or the IIRs -- our employees, in office X. If they're all busy, it will then look for the next most available agent.
In our run-up to this, we discussed at length, kind of the features that we'd like to see, and some of those features were the geographic preferences, so that people would be dealing with phone calls that dealt with the district in which they were setting it. So, we've asked for, you know, in our performance of work statement, we've asked for that kind of routing.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: But -- but there's nothing in the performance work statement that actually goes to the -- to the qualitative nature of the call, that if a person has a complex problem, it won't necessarily be routed to a person -- to a lead person, or to a higher-tiered person, as in the past, or is that something we can work into a long-term solution, because it -- it would seem like that would be one of the benefits you would want from getting to the IVR first, trying to figure out whether this was a complex problem or not?
MR. BRENNER: Yes, and, you know, in the distribution of our employees within the field offices, we do have leads in every office. And, so, we have a significant number of lead IIRs in this process, as opposed to our outsourced process where they were all in one location, so, we didn't have as many lead employees.
So, in our situation, with skills-based routing, we've generally relied on it for geographic distribution. We could work on getting it for more complex questions, but generally with the number of leads we have in the offices, people will be calling in, dealing with someone, and then getting a -- a live transfer if it's a difficult phone call, or a more complex question in the offices.
MS. PIERRE: The other thing that is added is the linkage between the phone and the computer that we will not have during this interim period.
Now, with the long-term technology support, we would get this linkage between the phone and the computer, where the person answering the phone would just be able to use the computer and soft keys on the computer to answer the calls.
During this interim solution, they will have to use their phone and then also use the computer, so, we'll be providing headsets, but the phone-computer linkage will also facilitate the manipulation of the data and the call answering.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: I know my time for this round is up. Let me just be clear about this. What we're talking about here, in this -- what sounds like a high-tech issue, really is a question of filling in data fields of name, rank, serial number, of putting in basic demographic information: Who is calling, where they're calling from, what their contact address is. All of this is derived, it's my understanding, from either that the person has called before and we have this information for them, or the person -- the person's location is pinpointed, so, you would put down -- if I was -- if someone was calling from my house, my name would pop up on the screen. If my wife was calling, my name would come up on the screen as the person who's billed for the telephone line. And our address would come up and our phone number would come up automatically, under a long-term solution.
So, what we have to do here, our people, for the short-term, have to fill this in manually, have to ask and fill in the address. And it takes somewhat more time, but not an excruciating amount. Is that correct?
MS. PIERRE: I -- I have no idea, since we would – we’re going to be trying this new, in terms of going the manual approach, so, --
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Well, no -- but we -- we did the manual approach for two years, did we not?
MS. PIERRE: They -- well, I guess it was a little less than two years. They entered information, but they did have the computer-phone linkage, so they were -- they were still able to manipulate data a lot easier, even though they had to enter that information.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Could you inform me on the computer-phone linkage? I don't understand, how -- I thought -- it was explained to me that, for the first two years, roughly --
MS. PIERRE: Right.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: -- of the call center pilot, that the CSRs at Vangent had no information populated in the screens involving name, address, telephone number, and I don't recall whether the demographic information that they punched in, in the IVR was included or not, but that, the basic information that I thought was populating the screens, was not in fact happening.
MS. PIERRE: Right.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: So, could you explain to me the computer-telephone linkage during the first two years of this process?
MS. PIERRE: The computer-telephone linkage is what enabled the -- the operators to be able to use the computer, okay? And what they call soft keys on the computer, to show that, when they sign on, they were available or they were not available or doing other work.
When the calls came in, they were able to answer the calls, without having to resort to a separate handset to answer the calls. They were able to -- to do the information through -- to handle the calls through the computer.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: You mean by -- by pushing a button, say? Saying that they -- they can take the call --
MS. PIERRE: They're using the keys.
MR. BRENNER: Yes, for example, you would have on your computer screen -- you log in and then there's a drop-down menu that has a lot of choices on it, one of which is "available," which means you're available to take phone calls, so that calls can start running to you.
But you do all that through your computer, not through your handset. And so, if you had finished a call, and you had what they call after call work, where you wanted to clean up what you had written and make sure you had all the correct boxes checked, then you pull the drop-down menu, you put after call work. And then you did your work, you went back and you made yourself available again.
And so that's -- that's one level of the CTI.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: So, in the new short-term solution, after your call is completed, and you have follow-up work to do, you hang up with the person you’ve talked to, and then the phone could ring immediately again, and you would have to answer it.
MS. PIERRE: Right.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Is that --
MS. PIERRE: That's right.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Is that the difference? So, you might get backed up? But you can also sign off, I assume, and say, I have work to do, and not answer the call. Or, you know, to push --
MS. PIERRE: Except there are people monitoring.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Well, no, no, no, but -- but, if you, you know, the follow-up work is important to do.
MS. PIERRE: It is. I'm just saying if you were too long. You couldn't just -- if you signed off to say I have work to do, and you stayed off too long.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: There's management watching to see how efficiently you work.
MS. PIERRE: Right, right. I brought up the computer-phone linkage in an attempt to answer your question about, would it be so much longer to handle the calls, then if they -- if they just have to manually answer the information. And I just wanted to indicate that there's just a little more involved with time savings with the computer-phone linkage.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Thank you, Madam Chair. I'll give my statement in the next round.
CHAIR EARP: You're quite welcome, Commissioner Ishimaru, Commissioner Griffin?
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Cynthia or Brett, on voting for the short-term solution, we're assured that we're hiring people, the number 60 --
MS. PIERRE: 61 intake information representatives.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Right, and they're all going to be fully trained?
MS. PIERRE: We will have a two-week training session set up.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: When is that going to --
MS. PIERRE: Well, assuming we bring them on board --
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Well that hasn't been -- okay --
MS. PIERRE: -- March 3rd -- it's -- it will be March 3rd through March 14th.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Okay, and so we are -- we're really -- we're going to be ready to take this over as of March 20th, so, by voting on this today, we're --
MS. PIERRE: Right -- we have the -- trainers have been trained and they're ready to go. They're already scheduled to conduct the training during those two weeks.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Okay. Can you explain a little bit to me about the role of the District Directors and their -- the team that they've formed, and I'm not fully --
MS. PIERRE: Right. There are five District Directors, and myself, who are comprising this management team for the in-house customer response function. And their role was first to come up with a name, to make sure that people understood we're not setting up a contact center, but we're setting up something for EEOC, to help us answer our calls in a way that makes sense for EEOC and the field. They are to -- and, well, they've been working on coming up with a management plan, so that there's a consistency in how the phones are answered across the country, because they will be at 15 districts.
These five will be representing the other 10 directors, in terms of getting input and so forth. But, the idea is to -- they'll set up the business rules, they'll set up decisions for how the phones will be answered, how the supervision will be done of the staff in each office, and set up performance expectations for how people will be evaluated. And, if any policy questions come up for handling the calls in the field, putting together additional or new scripts. If new information needs to be given to the IIRs for being able to answer questions, that they'll be responsible for that and making sure that updates are done, and working with the local management that we would have in Kansas City.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: So, now are you -- you'll be the person here at Headquarters that will be --
MS. PIERRE: Yes.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: -- sort of overseeing all of this from -- from here. Is that right?
MS. PIERRE: I guess that's a mixed question --
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: It's a question. It's actually a question. I don't know whether it's been determined or not, but I guess what I'm getting at, is there going to be someone here at Headquarters, because it looks like all of the management of this, to me, is now moved out of Headquarters and -- and I don't think that that's necessarily a bad thing, but I think for the beginning of this --
MS. PIERRE: I see --
MS. PIERRE: -- or a coordinating, liaison function, you know, helping out during the transition, but the idea is that it -- it becomes theirs.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: What -- what will their role be for the long-term? Will this be -- this isn't just a short-term role for them? This is --
MS. PIERRE: Right, this will be a long-term role for them.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Will they have a role in determining a…?--
MS. PIERRE: I would say - an example would be like this joint -- this standing committee -- Joint Standing Committee for the FEPAs, as a group of directors who's been on that for years and it's an ongoing function. This group would be more -- have a lot more day-to-day responsibilities, but it would be a standing body.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Well that probably wasn't a good example to bring up right at this moment.
MS. PIERRE: Sorry.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: But I'll let -- I'll let that one go.
MS. PIERRE: The concept.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Yes. Will they have a role in actually determining the -- the long-term contractor? Will they play a role in that process?
MS. PIERRE: Well, under the procurement process, we have to have a technical evaluation team, and that technical evaluation team, the members of that, and there's a source selection authority that would be named by the Chair, or the Chief Operating Officer, and the technical evaluation team would follow the criteria that's set up. There's objective criteria that's set up for evaluating the vendors, and then the source selection authority would make the final decision.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: So -- I -- they will -- so, I'm assuming they will, as sort of the managers of this program, they will have some role in that?
MS. PIERRE: Oh, yes.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: On that team, or --
MS. PIERRE: On that team? Surely, yes.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Okay. All right. My time is up, I'll stop.
CHAIR EARP: Vice Chair.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: The Chair, in her opening statement, talked about how the short-term and the long-term contract, as we saw it -- as she saw it, was intertwined.
MS. PIERRE: Right.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: …and talked about the hiring of the IIRs. And I know that you have that lined up, and the building-out of the space.
Can you talk a little bit more about why you think that they're intertwined? And why, since the short-term solution, or the short-term stopgap is less expensive -- a lot less expensive than a long-term contract, why we wouldn't just stay with that short-term?
MS. PIERRE: Well, what we would get for staying with the short-term, is basically a situation where calls are being answered, but we won't have a good idea of what the calls are that are coming in, how many calls that are not being answered. We will not -- since we will not be able to actually roll the calls over from office -- from district to district, calls that will come in to some districts may get answered, some calls that come into others may not get answered, so, we'll be back with the unevenness in -- in response and access to us, that we had, prior to even the former call - contact center.
Also, we wouldn't --
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: Are the things you're talking about pretty standard when agencies have contact centers, or companies have -- I mean, these type of things, you know, these add-ons? I mean, is this generally pretty standard for -- you know, those --
MS. PIERRE: The automatic call distribution, the skills-based routing, the computer-phone linkage, I'm calling it for -- so I don't have to keep saying computer telephony integration, but, those are pretty standard. I think we're not actually even asking for the superior bells and whistles --
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: We're not getting the bells and whistles, but we're getting, you know, what the basics of what you need to run a --
MS. PIERRE: To make sure the calls are distributed evenly and that we can make sure that there is monitoring in place.
We're also, you know, asking for technology to allow us to do quality assurance monitoring as well, with the long-term contract, and the -- the ability to be able to -- to have that phone linkage, to be able to have this automatic call distribution, and the skills-based routing, those are all the really basic functions that most agencies --
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: And the populating of the field -- I don't know what that's called.
MS. PIERRE: The screen pops.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: Yes.
MS. PIERRE: Right. That's pretty standard for other agencies that do this in-house, yes.
Did you want to add, Brett, to any of it?
MR. BRENNER: No, I just tend to look at it in a -- in the terms of the services we're giving our own employees and the services we're giving the public. And, I think that when you -- when you look at both those, kind of, areas of concern, the -- what we're asking for in the long-term is pretty standard, and both in what we're giving our employees, with the ability to have the scripts and have, you know, their process flow pretty evenly.
But then also, more importantly, with the public, and having -- being able to make sure that the information they're getting is accurate. Also, making sure that they can get to someone. I think that the automatic call distribution is very important, also the ability to queue calls. If -- if all the people are busy nationwide, you get a hold signal, or you get some music to listen to while somebody becomes available, is very important. And that's something that we would not have in the short-term. So that, I think our ability to reach the public and the public's ability to reach us is -- is significantly enhanced -- significantly enhanced for the long-term.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: I probably mentioned this before, but I have a really vivid memory of being at the Commission not very long, and going to visit one of our offices, and having the different employees come up to talk about what's going on. And I remember a computer person saying that the phones rolled and rolled and rolled over, and would end up, and no one would answer, and would often end up with this person. And then that person had none of the skills to answer the questions, and they would get yelled at.
And so, you know, obviously that and, you know, multi-times over, you know, we've been trying to build a way to competently answer the phones to get to the public.
And I feel like -- it seems to me in looking at the numbers, it's reflected in, you know, the fact that charges went up last year, that we are getting to more people. I think anytime someone gets to hold, you know, a busy signal, what have you, you know, it's a lost opportunity.
So, I think it's really important that when we look for our long-term solution, that we, you know, we don't need every bell and whistle, but that we give our folks what they need to answer the phones -- the tools that they need to answer the phones competently and smoothly across our employees, you know, where they're located.
I'm intrigued by what Stuart talked about, the skills-based routing, and I could see us altering things down the line. I mean, have to, I guess, alter the answers to the questions on the phone, too, but there may be people that have specific expertises and we could take advantage of that.
Would that be particularly challenging once we went for that?
MS. PIERRE: I don't think so.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: It would just be a question of having a question and then linking it, if the answer's a certain way, to a particular individual or individuals. Is that correct?
MS. PIERRE: I mean we would have to depend on the vendors to tell us the best solution for it, but it is something that's feasible. Surely.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: So, we -- might, you know, might be able to take advantage of that if we figured out what specific questions were really going to stump other folks answering the phones?
MR. BRENNER: Yes, I think it would be a matter of setting up the process to determine what the issue was, so you could sort it.
MS. PIERRE: Right, if you want to make some people specialists in some areas to -- for those -- those certain calls, to be routed to those.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: But, in the time that you did it before, you never saw something that was so specialized --?
MR. BRENNER: Once again, at the outsourced center, they were all sitting together in one room. So, if someone had an issue that was federal sector-related, and there were a few people there that understood the federal sector better than everyone else, and they could put their caller on hold and stand up and ask the person, you know, for some guidance, or they could look to the lead who was there for some guidance. And the leads do more than just complex questions. When they get threats, or they get a really angry phone caller, who doesn't want to calm down. A lot of times, if they're abusive to the first-line answerer, they can go to the -- to the next level up, are leads.
But they had a -- they had a -- because it was in one place, they had those resources available on a -- on a more informal basis, and we could work on using skills-based routing to have a more formal process along those lines.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: Okay, thank you, as my time's up.
CHAIR EARP: I want to also kind of attach myself to Commissioner Ishimaru's comment. I think that -- it's a first, but --
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: … and with a straight face!
CHAIR EARP: But seriously, there are a number of pieces of legislation that's currently pending. Some of it is going to be, in the short-term, pretty complex. So, to the extent that it is not cost-impacting, if you can ask the potential vendors to at least look at this issue as a part of the work we're doing, just kind of looking forward, you should build it in.
MS. PIERRE: And it's certainly something we can discuss at the industry day, that we would have with the vendors, where we're talking quietly about what we're interested in.
CHAIR EARP: Excellent, because I think just looking ahead, we could expect, and should expect, if the civil right statutes are amended, or there is new legislation coming onboard, that in the short-term, we would get a tremendous volume of calls, and they need to be directed. The caller who's calling in about amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act should not have to wait for what those amendments mean.
So, I'd really appreciate your considering that as you go forward.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Well, but -- I just want to make clear here, that the skills-based routing that, I think the three of us have talked about, is not after the call comes in, that the routing is done when the person is in the IVR, and answering questions there?
MS. PIERRE: Right.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: So you get routed to the right person, rather than to have someone stand up and say, help, help.
MR. BRENNER: And that's why --
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: So, but it sounded like that didn't happen in earlier times, that the skill-based routing at the outsource call center was more bilingual or not.
MS. PIERRE: Right.
MR. BRENNER: And, I mean, just as an example of someone who was calling about an issue, and we wanted to use skills-based routing that wasn't just area code routing. You could -- you could have a question on the IVR that says, if you're calling about X, Y, Z, class case, hit 1. And they would hit 1, and they could be routed through some more information. If they wanted to speak to someone, then they could go onto a certain office that was leading that class.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: But did -- did we do that?
MS. PIERRE: We did not have that, no.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: We did not do that. But you could conceivably do it.
MS. PIERRE: We could.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Okay.
MR. BRENNER: And it's a matter -- it's all a matter of working to get the IVR, you know, changed, and the programming.
MS. PIERRE: There's a way to do it.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: And I think what you hear here, is that there's interest in using the technology to the fullest extent possible.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Can I just actually jump in on this just to ask, if -- let's say, the Americans with Disabilities Act was amended and restored, and we couldn't get, you know, the training out to people right away, and we had lots of calls, God willing. Would it be possible to, let's say, route calls regarding that directly to our Office of Legal Counsel, or something like that? Could we do something like that with skills?
MS. PIERRE: I don't think we would be able to route it directly, but, you know, again, this --
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Somebody in the back is nodding his head, yes.
MS. PIERRE: Well, I don't know who that is, maybe he should be at the table, but in terms of how we would -- I mean, there are a number of ways we could approach it. And depending on what the question is the person has, in the past if there was, you know, immediate new information that came out, we would actually develop a script with legal -- with Office of Legal Counsel's assistance, and have it shot out to the people answering the phones within a day's notice, so that anyone answering the phone would have access to that information.
And then if there were more complex questions, then that would be escalated to an e-mail, and then sent to the appropriate office for assistance in answering that question. And they would have a day or so to get back to that person. You know, and some of those questions may take research.
CHAIR EARP: Our potential is very exciting, but if I don't allow Commissioner Ishimaru to get his five minutes, he'll take 30. So, can we --
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Well, could I ask your indulgence that the clock be restarted?
CHAIR EARP: Yes.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: So, I have a brief statement that I think will put a number of issues out on the table.
One of those issues was, I was intrigued with the Vice Chair's suggestion of looking at what are we doing short-term versus the long-term, and the cost implications of how much more do you get, which I think is interesting.
CHAIR EARP: We'll restart your clock now.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'm glad we're here today, because we're finally asked to provide funds to bring the call answering function of this Agency back in-house, with permanent EEOC employees, where I believe it should have remained all along.
We're beginning to see the transition to a much improved way of answering calls at the Agency. And, as I said, when we first -- when I first voted against an outsource call center, trained EEOC employees need to be answering our calls from the public, and they need to have uniform and consistent access to quality technology. And I'm glad to see us moving towards that reality.
But, while I'm happy to be here, I'm concerned nonetheless, that our difficulties in managing the transition -- and I think part of this stems, not from the lack of hard work, because I think people have worked very hard on this, but frankly, it's civil rights lawyers and other high level professionals having to put on their hats to try to develop a call center. And I think from talking to my colleagues about this, and talking to the people who've helped develop it, it's a very difficult thing. And frankly, I'm not a call center expert and none of us here are. And that's been a difficult transition as we've tried to figure out what to do. And it's been a long process that stemmed from last summer.
Now we're at the point where there's five District Directors, Ms. Kimbrough from Atlanta, Mr. Bailey from Phoenix, Mr. Harter from Indianapolis, Mr. Neely from St. Louis, and Mr. Ruff from Houston, who are tasked with the management of, coming up with a management plan to deal with this, along with Ms. -- with Dr. Pierre. And I'm glad that there are District Directors focused on it. But I guess my point is, is that it just can't be these five District Directors who are focused on this. This is a function that District Directors need to focus on within their offices. It's a fundamental management issue to answer the phones and have them answered correctly and in a timely fashion.
And I argued with our former Chair, about, what made the most sense, should people be held accountable for the management of the calls into their offices? And we've had many a debate on the whole notion of what that should look like. But I think the -- the one point that I have tried to stress in my conversations with various people, is that as we move to this new in-house answering capability, that the Agency should stress -- this is what I believe -- that the Agency should stress that this is not an EEOC call center in 15 different locations, that this is EEOC employees answering the phones, providing correct information to the public that's contacting us, and to provide as much service as possible, as we can do.
And we should focus less on some of the metrics that have been developed for the call center context of length of time of call, how many calls you get, how quickly you can move them forward, because frankly, that's the metric for a successful call center. How quickly can you move people through? And that was my complaint all along, that, by its very nature, call centers are meant to process people quickly. And our mission, I believe, is different, that we should try to help these callers who call us; to try to figure out whether they have business with our Agency, and to get them the advice and counsel that's needed to move them on.
So I hope as we're focused on this, that all of our District Directors are focused on this task, and that they're held accountable for this task. That this is -- this has a fundamental part of their evaluation of whether their office is successful.
This role of information intake representative, the so-called, "IIR," I-I-R, for the court reporter, is huge. And these are the first people that most people will get when they call the Agency. And from what I've heard from briefings, the quality of people who have been talked to, have been -- has been excellent. It's been a wonderful response to our call for applications for these jobs. And I'm glad these people are coming in.
On the short-term contract, I believe we will have adequate technology in place to get us through. And I think the Vice Chair raises an interesting point as to whether this might be a solution for the long-term, minus some of the bells and whistles.
Given the cost variations, it may be something that we want to think about for the future.
It's been troubling, as we've talked about the short-term solution, again, going to the question of -- of, you know, of lawyers and other professionals handling this process, how we often find out new information as the process goes on. As late as last Thursday, new information came out about what was available for the short-term, and what was available for the long-term, but I guess at some point, we need to stop and vote. And that's where we are today.
For the long-term process, it's -- it's been a rough process in getting here, but I'm glad we're here. As the Chair knows, I have some problems voting today on a combined question. I think that the question should be split. And the question should be on a short-term solution, which I think we should have. And I think we should solicit for the long-term, but we should -- we should vote on the long-term after it comes in. And I, frankly, am somewhat uncomfortable voting to obligate funds for the long-term, not knowing what it will be.
The Legal Counsel and I had -- as well as Commissioner Griffin, had a conversation this morning, about trying to split the vote. And I'm not going to go through the dance that we might get through to come back to the same place, because I know how to count votes as well as you do, Madam Chair.
But, I think it would make more sense, and would be more transparent if we -- if we voted separately, and if we voted to just do the solicitation now, and come back once we saw a final and preferred solution, at a later point, but that obviously is not going to happen. I, frankly, if it was split into different votes, I would vote for the short-term solution today. And I would vote to solicit proposals, so we could see the best thinking out there, but I, frankly, would not vote today, to obligate, or to approve the going forward of a long-term contract that I have no idea what it will look like.
So, with that, Madam Chair, as going over my five minutes, that you've graciously given me, additional time for, I'm glad we're here today. We are choosing to move forward. I think we need to move forward. But I hope, that through this whole process, that these various issues that have been raised, just as -- as thoughts have come up, will be talked about. And that as we come up with a preferred solution for the long-term, that we look at various options that are out there. And I think that the possibilities of technology are very appealing on a certain level, and we should use that.
But again, we shouldn't be caught in trying to replicate something that we really don't need, and that's a call center in 15 different locations. We should use this technology to help our employees answer the phones and to help callers calling the Agency.
Madam Chair, thank you for your indulgence.
CHAIR EARP: Thank you, Commissioner.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: I actually have one question. Are we going to be doing quality assurance monitoring during the short-term?
MS. PIERRE: No.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Not at all?
MS. PIERRE: We don't have the capacity for that.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: All right, that's --
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Can I ask a question, though?
CHAIR EARP: Sure.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: But that's not to say that the management will not be monitoring the calls of their employees in their offices. They're -- they're going to be listening at least to half of the conversation, to make sure that the person sounds reasonably responsive. You're --
MS. PIERRE: The local supervisors certainly would be expected to -- to do local monitoring of the calls.
I was answering in terms of the quality assurance function that was described in the --
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Right.
MS. PIERRE: -- in the long-term, which would include being able to record calls and also to do remote calling in -- listening in to calls.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Do you anticipate that, that function will actually continue once the long-term solution gets going? Will this be a regular occurrence, this call monitoring?
MS. PIERRE: Yes.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: Can I ask a question?
CHAIR EARP: It's Commissioner Griffin's time.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Actually, yes she can, and I'll give my statement very quickly. Go right -- go ahead.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: It just --
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: I think this is important -- what we do with quality assurance.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: -- your concern for the long-term contract, is -- is not whether or not to have one, because you agree that we need to have, but -- but, what it's going to look like, in other words, what bells and whistles, who we pick, who our people pick.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: …and whether it's working, right.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: Well, but whether it's working, we wouldn't know until after it's picked. I mean --
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Right.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: But, in my time here, I've never actually chosen between vendors, so that would be highly unusual, and would I have to fill out more ethical papers to do that, Stuart?
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: No, no, no, but we've -- we voted when we --
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: That was a joke, sorry.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: -- we voted for the original call center pilot, we voted on the -- the awarding of the contract. It was already chosen and the -- we were ratifying the choice that's been made, and that's what I would have wished would have happened here; that the process would have gone forward to ask for proposals, and that, at the end, we would have a proposal in front of us, and frankly, the proposal that I voted against, was a well thought out proposal for a call center. But, it was a fundamental disagreement that I had with the whole notion of whether our work could be done through a call center.
I'm not saying that --
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: So, the last time you didn't vote for it, because you didn't -- but this time you'd want to actually vote for the -- for the vendor.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: I -- I think if -- if the vendor came in with a coherent plan that would meet our needs, I would vote for it, but -- but I'm not going to have that opportunity here, and I, you know, I appreciate what's going on, but you know, I think there's a need to provide this sort of technology to our employees. I hope that -- that helps clarify.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: And I thought you were going to ask about quality assurance monitoring, here I am saying, that's important.
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: I'm sorry, I just wanted to understand.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: So, I'm not giving up my time that --
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: No, you didn't have to give up your time.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: And, as Stuart said, this will be -- I mean, it's critical in the beginning. I'm sure you know that we -- that these people get monitored. I mean, you know.
MS. PIERRE: The only way we'll be able to monitor them during this short-term period is, if the local supervisor sits beside them to listen to the call, or if phones have to actually be set up to have their lines on the supervisor's phone, which is additional.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Well, somebody's going to be listening to this in the beginning.
MS. PIERRE: Right.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: I mean this isn't short-term of one month. This is short-term of --
MS. PIERRE: 10-1/2 months.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Yes.
MS. PIERRE: Right, but we have discussed that at the training -- at the train the trainers session, that locally there will be supervisors, and they will be responsible for their performance evaluations and they'll have to sit in.
Also, the leads would be expected to also do monitoring and feeding back information for assessing coaching needs, or training needs.
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: Well, I think it's safe to say that the process that we've gone through to get where we are today has been frustrating, at best. And I think we all can agree that at times we were frustrated.
It's become clear over the last eight months that we as lawyers, which is what all of us are, that are discussing this -- oh, you’re not Cynthia -- I always think you are -- that we really don't have the expertise to fully understand all of this technology. And I won't go through all the things that have gone wrong. But we did hire an expert, and that experience I think was also disappointing.
We came to this short-term solution finally on our own, with some help from our newly hired customer response specialist and our expert really didn't suggest a solution; once again, proving to me that, that I actually think that was money wasted.
But, all that being said, the solution I think that's offered here today, for the short-term at least, I think is a good one, and hopefully will provide good customer service economically.
As for the long-term solution, we're really at the beginning. I would’ve loved the option of getting proposals before us, you know, having a team vet them; being allowed to, you know, get a briefing on that; and then -- then actually voting for a specific long-term contract, not weighing in, in a way that would violate procurement act, or anything like that, but being able to really be, you know, more involved in the -- in the process, and actually voting on what we’re getting.
This -- what we're doing today, and you know, our Office of Legal Counsel has given us advice on how things -- how we are presented with the vote that we're presented.
And it -- it forces us, some of us -- myself -- to take a leap of faith. And given our track record on this issue, that troubles me a little bit, I have to vote on what's been presented by the Chair, and that's all there is to it.
I would hope that we -- we watch this very carefully in this first 10-1/2 months. I am a little troubled that most of the management of this extremely important function -- some would argue the most important function -- it is -- it is the first interaction people have with us as an agency. That -- I'm troubled that, that function is -- is going to be, you know, for the most part, outside of Headquarters. And again, I don't think that's necessary long-term, but I think initially it could be a problem.
It would be, I think, great, if the Chair would consider appointing one of us to actually oversee this in the first 10-1/2 months, and be sort of her eyes and ears. As a fellow Commissioner, I know that you have staff that, you know, report directly to you on this, but I think seeing it maybe from another person's perspective in our role as Commissioner, would be important, because I think we all want the best, and we want good customer service. And we want it to be provided from well-trained EEOC employees, so, I look forward to working on this in the next year or so.
CHAIR EARP: Thank you, Commissioner Griffin.
Any additional discussion?
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Can I make a brief comment, Madam Chair?
CHAIR EARP: Sure.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: I just wanted to note, for the record, that there was an agreement among the members of the Commission, that if -- if the long-term contract exceeded a certain threshold, that we would again revisit the question of the long-term contract, but I just wanted to point that out. I'm not going to talk about numbers or the amounts, but we have an agreement that, if it goes beyond a certain threshold, that it will be revisited with a Commission vote?
CHAIR EARP: Correct. I was actually planning to read that agreement into the record, just to make sure that we're all clear.
I would attach myself to the comments that Commissioner Griffin has made. It has been frustrating, painfully so, but I would say the process has also been enlightening. And I would thank my fellow Commissioners for playing the loyal opposition to the extent that we have all become enlightened in the process.
Some of the time has been lost. And one of the reasons that we are voting today on a single vote is to try and make up some lost time. While that time has been described as squandered, I don't think so. I think some time has been wasted, but it has been well wasted, because we have all learned something in the process.
With that, for the record, I will attempt to articulate what the agreement is, that Commissioner Ishimaru referenced.
With regard to the long-term technology support contract, I think we should stipulate on the circumstances by which a subsequent vote, authorizing the obligation of additional funds, might be necessary.
A subsequent vote will be necessary if, at any time over the life of the contract, the total price of the long-term contract exceeds 90% of the government's cost estimate for the one-year, sole source contract that was in the January 2008 request, submitted to the Commission for approval, for obligation of funds for the temporary IVR ACD hosting contract, multiplied by the number of years of the long-term contract.
In making this calculation, the one-time implementation cost incurred in the initial year of the contract will be excluded. The potential for two votes for the obligation of funds in this procurement is not a precedent with respect to future procurements.
It's wordy, but I think we all --
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: I see our law degrees are finally coming into play here.
CHAIR EARP: I think we all understand the point that's to be made here, and putting it in the record underscores the point raised by Commissioner Ishimaru.
I would like to call for a motion to approve the Obligation of Funds to Approve a Long-term and Short-term Solution, to the Commission's Call Answering and Customer Response Function?
VICE CHAIR SILVERMAN: So moved.
CHAIR EARP: Is there a second? I will second. Any further discussion?
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Could I ask one more question of Cynthia, just to clarify an earlier statement that she made? And she can provide this answer.
CHAIR EARP: Do you remember the TV series, Columbo?
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: I remember it being on, I never watched it. I was watching something much more juvenile, I'm sure.
Let me ask one more question, Cynthia. You said that there was an analysis that hosting the IVR internally would yield in no savings. Was that a written analysis? I don't recall ever seeing anything like that or having that discussion.
MS. PIERRE: It was something we did for ourselves. I mean, I put it in an e-mail to someone, I'm not sure -- maybe it was the COO, but it was something we did to ourselves to test -- I mean, the question was raised to me, what if we did it ourselves? How much would it cost?
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Okay. Maybe we could talk about that after the meeting.
MS. PIERRE: Okay.
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Thank you. Thank you, Madam Chair.
CHAIR EARP: The motion was made and properly seconded, and there was one final point of discussion.
I would like to now call for all those in favor of approving said vote, please signify by saying, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIR EARP: Opposed?
(No audible response.)
CHAIR EARP: The ayes have it, it's unanimous and the vote passes.
May I have a motion to adjourn the meeting?
COMMISSIONER GRIFFIN: So moved.
CHAIR EARP: Second?
COMMISSIONER ISHIMARU: Second.
CHAIR EARP: All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIR EARP: Thank you, the meeting's adjourned.
(Whereupon, proceedings in the above-entitled matter were concluded.)
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