Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Unemployment Call Center Establishes Dedicated Phone Line For Filing New Claims

Restructuring of phone system is designed to reduce wait times and busy signals


(DENVER) – Call Centers which are now commonly used to file for jobless benefits across the country are being tested as never before.  The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has responded to the unprecedented volume of calls by today announcing a restructuring of its Unemployment Benefits Call Center.  This new approach is a "two-tiered system" that establishes one dedicated phone line (303-318-9123) for new claims filing and another (303-318-9000) for callers with questions and problems:


Tier I:

To File An Initial Claim


Long Distance Toll Free:  1-866-422-0401


Tier II:

For Resolution to Questions and Problems


Long Distance Toll Free:  1-888-550-2800


Filing an initial claim requires the greatest amount of time for the Call Center.  Each new claim generally takes about 20 minutes to complete but it is worth noting that staff don't merely assist with these new unemployment claims.  Each day, thousands of individuals call in with issues surrounding an existing claim or questions about their eligibility for benefits.  There are concerns about federal emergency unemployment compensation claims and issues related to the status of current claims.


While not as time consuming as filing an initial claim, even the most simple of these calls can take several minutes to resolve and having everyone – new claimants and existing claimants alike -- share one queue has resulted in long hold times and frustrating busy signals.


"Our Tier 1 staff are newer employees who can assist in basic claims taking while they are being trained to handle increasingly tougher issues," explains Donald J. Mares, Executive Director of the Department of Labor and Employment.  "Callers with questions and problems come through a separate line and are routed to our Tier II staff who are more experienced and highly skilled agents.  As more Call Center agents are hired – and they're coming – they will start as Tier I agents.  Then, as they progress and learn more, they will become Tier II agents, able to solve problems and answer more complex questions."


Mares adds that while separating claimants into two queues might be seen as prioritizing the calls in some way, that is not the case.  "Our only priority is providing quality service to all our customers, even in the toughest of times.  For our staff, this skills based call routing approach will manage incoming calls more efficiently.  That will result in a greater ease of access and reduced wait times for everyone."


Of course, not everyone does their unemployment benefits business over the phone.  Colorado has a web site where people can file an initial claim and accomplish many simple tasks related to their claim without talking with a Call Center agent.  "We encourage people to visit us online at," Mares says.  "Click on the Unemployment Online Services" link and you can file a claim, change your address, reset your PIN and more."