Commission Vote Against Extending National Contact Center Likely to Disrupt Service
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) called on the public to be patient when contacting the federal agency during its continuing transition to an in-house customer response system staffed by federal workers, in the wake of today’s 2-2 vote nixing a three-month extension of the National Contact Center (NCC) contract.
“Unfortunately, today’s Commission vote denying a reasonable extension of the National Contact Center will likely result in disrupted service to the public,” said EEOC Chair Naomi C. Earp. “Creating an in-house system and making a seamless transition is a complex and time-consuming process. We continue working as quickly as we can to put a new system in place. But we ask the public to be patient when contacting the EEOC during this transition period.”
Chair Earp and Vice Chair Leslie Silverman voted for the three-month NCC extension, while Commissioners Stuart Ishimaru and Christine Griffin voted against it. Under Commission rules, a tie vote results in a defeat of the measure. The outsourced call center, based in Lawrence, Kan., will be shuttered Dec. 19. Calls and e-mails from the public will then be directly routed to EEOC field offices throughout the country.
The public can continue using the toll-free number, 800-669-4000. The TTY number for individuals with hearing and speech impairments is 800-669-6820. But the quality response service the public has come to expect may lapse, at least for a while, beginning next month.
Creating an in-house customer response system involves procurement, hiring, sites identification, and change management. Determining the technology solution alone is a full-scale undertaking.
For the past three years, the EEOC contracted with Vangent, Inc. (formerly Pearson Government Solutions) for the NCC, which has handled initial contacts to the agency’s 53 field offices nationwide. The NCC currently receives and handles approximately 65,000 calls and 3,000 e-mails each month. The contract also offers translation services in more than 150 languages, with an average call wait time of 30 seconds, and provides quick access to caller demographic data.
Congressional appropriators eliminated funding for the NCC’s continuation in the EEOC’s Fiscal Year 2008 budget. The Commission voted Aug. 10 to replace the center with an in-house customer response team and to allocate funds to hire a consultant to advise and assist the agency on transitioning to a decentralized configuration. While agency executives, project managers and an independent consultant agreed that the transition would require more than three months, a Commission consensus could not be obtained for more than a three-month extension of the Vangent contract.
Many other federal agencies, including the IRS and the Department of Health and Human Services, operate privately run call centers. “The National Contact Center benefited the public we serve by providing an effective and efficient mechanism for the EEOC to address 21st century customer needs while freeing up limited agency field staff to process our growing caseload,” Chair Earp has said.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Additional information about the agency is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.