Call Centre Committee

Minutes of the Call Centre Committee Meeting

November 7-8, 2012

In attendance:  Pamela Abbott               Chairperson - RVP Pacific 
                      Debbie Ferguson             Call Centre Representative (Saint John)
                      Luc Tailleur                     Call Centre Representative (Montreal)
                      Kent MacDonald             Staff Advisor

Absent:          Jamie vanSydenborgh       RVP, Southwestern Ontario (Co-Chairperson)

1. Review of last minutes (June 19-20, 2012)

The Committee reviewed the previous minutes. No further action required.

2. September Presidents’ Conference – lunch time meeting

The Committee discussed how well the lunchtime meeting went and that the Locals asked that a half-day workshop on call centres be added to the next Presidents’ Conference to further discuss call centre issues in a similar forum.  Sister Abbott will speak to Brother Campbell to see if this can be part of the March 2013 Presidents’ Conference.

3. Consultation with the CRA

The following items were discussed with the employer at our June 20, 2012 meeting:

1) All Hands on Deck causes the following problems :

SP 05 Senior TP Services Agents are put on the SP 04 lines – approx. 4 hours. This approach removes technical support from the teams, increases callbacks and other workloads for SP 05’s.  It also reduces accuracy levels, as SP 04’s do not have the access for technical support.

Also, SP 05’s that are required to participate in the “All Hands on Deck” feel that they are being taken advantage of when the opportunities arise for overtime at the SP 04 level and they are denied the opportunity to participate.

Scheduled meetings and training are impacted by the “All Hands on Deck”. Scheduled meetings are sometimes not rescheduled which can break down communication between a team leader and the team.  Training sometimes has to be rescheduled months later as a result of limited training spaces available in certain sites.

2) Training

There has been increase in promoting self-study via online learning. Training courses on system say that the course is a hands on facilitator led course but the promotion of self-study is done instead. As well, recommended allotted hours for training are being reduced by management.  The perception in some cases is the employee already knows most of it, so they do not need all the hours.  As for self-study, this does not necessarily give the best opportunity to maximize the participants understanding of the material in complex cases. Training in classroom has always been the best way to maximize a full understanding of the material due to sharing of information etc.

3) National Retention / Term Rehires

There is no consistency among call centres on this process.  There has to be a better way, which includes a standardized process for these employees.  Tests designed locally don’t always take into account the experience of these employees.  As these employees are returning, a standardized exercise would be better.  As well, any testing should be done during the work hours versus on Saturdays.  These are employees of the Agency, not a new person applying. 

4) National Quality and Accuracy Learning Program (NQALP)

This database should be reserved for NQALP Team Leaders and NQALP listeners.  This is to maintain the program’s integrity, data confidentiality and trust of employees into the program. There are cases where Team Leaders have been given access to this database and have been using it for performance evaluations.  The guidelines for the program clearly provide that NQALP is to be used for training and learning only and not for performance management, and this needs to be stopped immediately.

5) Standardized time between calls

There appears to be an understanding out in the field that Headquarters set the times between calls.  The employer has informed us that the local offices set the standard.  The Committee believes that this time should be standardized nationally.  
 
The Committee will be asking for an update on these items from the employer at our November 8th meeting.

4. National Quality and Accuracy Learning Program – Internal Survey (NQALP-IS) Pilot Project

The Committee reviewed the employer’s final report on the pilot project in preparation for our meeting with the CRA.  Excerpts from the report:

Pilot process

The pilot lasted for eight (8) weeks beginning the first Monday of July 2012.  The first week was dedicated to Certified Listener training. The call monitoring portion lasted for five (5) weeks.  The remaining two (2) weeks were dedicated to the completion of participant pilot evaluation forms (agents and Certified listeners) and the preparation of this report.

The monitoring target was 800 calls.

Post training, the Certified Listeners (CL) drew standardized scripted call scenarios from the national repository. The repository contained 125 questions in each official language.

The questions covered the majority of business lines.

The initial process, for simplicity purposes, required that a CL dial the internal ‘1-800 line’ in their respective call centre and speak to a random agent.  This process was modified on the initiative of each participating call centre to involve all or most of their agents in the pilot.  Refer to the following ‘observations’.
 
The CL posed as taxpayers and followed the scripted scenarios taking required observation notes.

At the end of the call, the CL identified themselves to the agent(s) and offered immediate feedback.  Agents were able to postpone feedback at their discretion.

All other actions followed accepted NQALP processes. 

Results

During the pilot, 686 calls were monitored under the Internal Survey process.  This represents 85.75 % of the pilot target.

Conclusions

The pilot has shown an overwhelming acceptance of the IS monitoring method as an enhancement to the NQALP.  A strong foundation exists and the input of the pilot participants will ensure a final program, which will suit the needs of all.  Our partnership with the three (3) pilot participants (Saint John, Montreal & Hamilton) and the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE) has ensured the success of the pilot and our continued co-operation will ensure the growth of the NQALP.
 
The goal of improving the skills of each TSD call centre telephone agent continues.

Recommendations

The NQALP-HQ recommends implementation of the national NQALP Internal Survey process beginning Q3 2012-2013, preceded by the requisite project plan and followed by a responsible plan for future direction of the NQALP, including the IS monitoring method.

As participants on the pilot, Sister Ferguson and Brother Tailleur will address UTE’s concerns on how the pilot was run at the local level and also the inclusion of the Internal Survey as on ongoing part of NQALP at the November 8, 2012 meeting with the employer.

5. Summary of meeting with the employer on November 8th, 2012

The employer updated the Committee on the five items from our June 2012 meeting.

All Hands on Deck - The employer concurs that this is not the best utilization of resources and believes it has put the proper amount of resources into each call centre that the need for “All hands on deck” should be a rare occasion. The employer also committed to provide clarification to all call centres on how the call for “all hands on deck” should impact operations.

Training - The employer concurs with UTE that Classroom and Assisted Study is better than Self Study. They have piloted a Distance Learning Model in that a person doing the course online on their own, has access to a Coach at specific times throughout the course as well as having a scheduled conference call with the coach and any other participants who are taking the course during the same period. The employer also reaffirmed that the time allocated by Head Office to complete any training material should never be shorten and the time allocated for the training should be the time allocated to the participants. The employer is committed to ensuring its Call Centre Training program is meeting the needs of the agents.

National Retention/Term Rehires - The issue was raised with the call centre managers but to date, no progress has been made with implementing National Standards for term rehire.

NQALP - The employer confirmed that only Certified Listeners should have access to the NQALP database and more importantly, confirmed Team Leaders should not be Certified Listeners and committed to getting this message out to the field and ensuring Team Leaders are not doing listening for NQALP.

Standardized time between calls - The employer did not have an answer at this meeting but committed to getting the information to Sister Abbott by the end of the week. UTE suggested that if call centres contemplate adjusting this time, to support wellness of agents, that it be increased during high traffic times, not the reverse.

In addition to these minutes, Sister Abbott will be emailing the update on the employer’s responses to all Call Centre Locals and Call centre Contacts.

National Quality and Accuracy Learning Program – Internal Survey (NQALP-IS) Pilot Project - The Committee, directed by Sister Ferguson and Brother Tailleur, had a lengthy discussion with the employer on all aspects of the pilot project and the Internal Survey becoming  part of NQALP. After the discussion, UTE’s main concerns centre around these issues:

  1. UTE mentioned that there was a lack of communication from the beginning that local union representatives were not involved in the project as the mandate suggested.  The employer recognizes the mandates of local union representatives may have been misunderstood at some local managements and will see that it does not recur in future projects involving the union and the CRA.

  2. Management confirmed that the internal survey is just an additional listening method added to NQALP, that it will have all the same objectives as NQALP and that they will ensure this is clarified when it is rolled out nationally. The employer also clarified that although the program does provide for assessing accuracy, it is not intended to determine an accuracy rate for an individual agent.  

  3. Mandatory vs. Voluntary
    Currently under NQALP, call centre agents have six calls per quarter listened by a Certified Listener, either side by side or remote quality listening, depending on the office.  The employer wants to replace two of these calls with the Internal Survey.  In reviewing all the information, the discussion with the employer and the feedback of the members, the Committee is comfortable with the implementation of the Internal Survey being mandatory.

  4. Team Leader access to database and being Certified Listeners
    The issue was a large concern due to the chance that the database could be used by Team Leaders for performance and not strictly to identify training needs of call centre agents as a group or individually. UTE is aware that the database has been used by Team Leaders for performance evaluations in the past. The employer reassured the Committee that Team Leaders will not have access to the database and most importantly, they will ensure that Team Leaders are not Certified Listeners.

  5. UTE expressed their concerns with SP-04’s listening to SP-05’s. Not only is this demoralizing, but also since listening does assess accuracy, this encourages listeners to operate outside their job description. The employer did not believe many call centres operate in this manner, but agreed to take the these concerns under advisement.

  6. The parties discussed the problem with call display and how the anxiety level increases when agents know the call is an internal survey. The employer will continue to look for a resolution to this problem.

  7. The parties also discussed providing some flexibility on the number of calls allocated to agents who have demonstrated a high degree of accuracy and quality. At this time, the employer has no plans to reduce the quota of calls assessed.  

  8. Hamilton’s TAQ Program – UTE pointed out that after reviewing the feedback from both participants and listeners, it was not clear whether Hamilton rolled out the same pilot as Saint John and Montreal or whether they just continued with their existing program, which allows for a scoring of the call. UTE objected to this approach and asked the employer if locally developed programs would continue once the internal survey is implemented. The employer confirmed that NQALP does not provide for scoring and that once the internal survey is rolled out nationally, locally developed products would not continue.

The employer would like to implement the Internal Survey as a full part of NQALP in April 2013.  They would also like to issue a joint bulletin with UTE in the spring. Sister Abbot will discuss this with Brother Campbell and let the employer know if UTE will sign such a bulletin

The meeting adjourned at 3:30 p.m.