Businesses and organizations looking to outsource call center and email support are finding expert help in an often overlooked place – right here in the U.S. among the nation’s individuals who are blind or visually impaired.
While the unemployment rate for the blind is 70% nationally, advances in adaptive technology, such as screen magnifiers and screen readers, have recently leveled the playing field for this group.
Now a few select agencies are providing organizations with expert outsourced call center help by hiring and training those with visual impairment on state-of-the-art call center/electronic communication equipment and adaptive technology.
When organizations take advantage of this skilled resource for ongoing or project based call center work, it is not only proving surprisingly effective but also integrating those with visual impairment back into the work force.
“Outsourcing our overflow calls to a call center during open enrollment is one of the most critical contracts we have to service more clients across the state of Mississippi,” says Amanda Ward, State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) Director, a national program managed at the state level that counsels people on Medicare and Medicaid benefits and helps them with enrollment and appeals.
“It is a very busy time of year for our coordinators and counselors, and it would be difficult to reach those we need to without the added support,” adds Ward.
Advanced Equipment, Training, Quality Control
According to Ward, SHIP had a number of important criteria in selecting a call center outsource partner.
“We sought a call center partner that could handle a high volume of calls, as well as offer secure technology to support the system and the platforms we work on,” says Ward. “But we also needed a partner that would take the time to work with our clients in a friendly, educated, and patient manner.”
As a solution, Ward selected to work with the call center of Mississippi Industries for the Blind (MIB), a non-funded agency of the state of Mississippi with a mission to train and employ those that are legally blind or visually impaired to promote independence and self-reliance in all aspects of their lives.
While the agency has helped Mississippians who are blind or visually impaired with job training and jobs for 75 years, today one of the fastest growing areas of the organization is in call center operations, including inbound and outbound call support, email and electronic communication.
Among the adaptations that enable this successful collaboration are the utilization of PC monitors with screen magnification software, and screen reading software (synthesized speech). Used separately or in combination, these help agents with visual impairment to seamlessly perform.
To ensure quality, all of the call center’s agents receive extensive customer service training, as well as project specific training as needed, and are routinely monitored.
According to Ward, several of the call center’s staff are trained and certified to counsel for the SHIP program, and take complex calls that can last up to 90 minutes or more.
“Their call center provides the same level of service that my SHIP counselors do,” says Ward. “As a result, there is no lapse in service and nothing missing between what a client would receive if they walked into a coordinator’s office.”
According to Ward, the call center counsels hundreds of clients annually. She says this often involves providing clients with detailed benefit explanations about their Part D Medicare insurance, comparing Part D Medicare prescription drug plans, and helping to enroll clients in the most appropriate Part D Medicare prescription drug plan for them.
To help track program goals, the call center also provides performance statistics as required.
“Their call tracking allows me to see how many phone calls they receive on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, and how long the calls last,” says Ward. “Seeing calls that last an hour or more really shows the level of service and dedication the MIB call center specialists have for our program and clients.”
Ward noted that the ongoing investment in equipment and training that the call center makes ensures quality service.
“I recently had a chance to tour the MIB call center,” says Ward. “It is a beautiful facility. They make sure they keep their technology up to date, so it is always compatible with my platform online.”
The bottom line, however, is twofold for the SHIP program, says Ward.
“We could not reach the number of people we do each year if it were not for the seamless support of our partners at the Mississippi Industries for the Blind call center,” concludes Ward. “It is also a great plus that we are helping to empower visually challenged individuals in our state.”
For more information about call center outsourcing or Mississippi Industries for the Blind, please call 866-859-4461; fax 601-987-3892; email [email protected]; visit www.msblind.org; or write to Mississippi Industries for the Blind, 2501 N. West St., Jackson, MS 39216.