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MCC call center gets high marks

Mindy Silva, standing, watches over the customer service representatives at the Mohave Community College Call Center as they respond to questions from students, staff and the public about the college.

KINGMAN - The recent survey comments from satisfied callers to Mohave Community College Connect say it all.

"Really good experience and the wait was short. Very satisfied," stated a caller. Another said, "I was able to get transferred and everyone was able to answer the questions I had."

And yet another caller was thrilled to find a representative who could help him locate a proctor test, stating "Andy did an awesome job. He even said, 'I see your truck and I'm looking right at you. I will find out where the test is and call you right back."

The call center, located on the college campus at 1971 Jagerson Ave., celebrated its first birthday April 19. Shortly before, MCC President Michael Kearns commissioned a survey to find out how the call center is perceived by the community before adding more responsibilities to the 15 customer service representatives answering telephones from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.

Since it opened, the call center has logged 104,000 calls, with 90 percent answered and resolved. The other 10 percent were hang-ups or went to voice mail. The call center is able to identify the phone numbers of hang-ups and quickly call them back. The three busiest times of the year for calls are registration from July to August and October to November, and finals week in mid-December.

Kearns said the call center was created because for years, calls for information went to directly to each campus or to individual departments. Because those answering the calls didn't always have the necessary information, callers often became frustrated. Kearns said researchers found they could put nearly all the answers into a computer software system that could be used by customer service representatives.

"That meant students and potential students received fast and accurate information and employees who had been fielding those calls were now able to work one-on-one with the students who were at their desks, without interruption," said Kearns. "The biggest area of concern was financial aid and students depend heavily on it. We had to be sure that students were getting accurate, timely information and the call center has made that possible."

A bonus to that, said Kearns, was moving the information technology help desk under the call center in March. Since most calls were password and network access requests, it took time for skilled technicians to answer questions that were unrelated to hardware or software issues. Now, the customer service representatives can handle the routine questions and pass on real issues to the technicians.

The sampling

The survey, which took place from Feb. 27 to March 17, involved a 10 percent sampling taken from each day, totaling 226 callers. It showed 85 percent, or 192 callers, were extremely satisfied with their overall experience. A total of 220 callers, or 97 percent, said the representatives demonstrated good listening skills and understood the problem or question.

When it came to representatives being knowledgeable, 94 percent, or 213 callers, said they were. A total of 182 callers, or 81 percent, said the call was their first attempt at dealing with the issue they called about, and 80 percent, or 180 callers, said it was taken care of adequately. Seventy percent of the callers, or 159, said they didn't have to expend much personal effort in their quest to get their problem resolved or question answered.

Learning curve

"With the first year of anything new, you anticipate a learning curve," said Ana Masterson, director of enrollment management services at MCC. "To see these results was very rewarding. It was satisfying to know that within the first year, we were able to deliver what we hoped we could. It was a bright spot for me to find out that students, staff and the public see the call center as something they need and that the service is a great value to them. "

Mindy Silva, the call center's manager, said she was hired in March 2012 to get the fledgling program operational. Silva said 15 representatives initially took calls about admissions, advising, enrollment, registration and information technology, then added financial aid in May. The call center also helps answer switchboards for MCC's Lake Havasu City, Bullhead City and North Mohave County campuses.

"When I came on board in March 2012, I thought it would be a challenge, but I looked forward to getting the call center up and running," said Silva. "I was extremely excited to be a part of this, and I learned alongside the representatives. I should have been intimidated by it all, but I wasn't. We had a goal in mind and we stayed the course."

Silva said that because of the wide range of questions that come into the call center, representatives receive intense training in all areas, from listening to department presentations to participating in telephone training. Silva said the representatives get regular refresher training and are assessed monthly for their performance. She said representatives must be patient, intelligent, creative, intuitive and have critical-thinking skills.

Kim Bigelow, a customer service representative for eight months, recently got a "kudos" for assisting a man from North Carolina who was trying to enroll in the college's summer session. He told Silva that Bigelow was extremely knowledgeable, helped with understanding the entire process and really made a difference.

"You get a lot of diverse people and questions here, and each call is exciting," said Bigelow. "I was nervous when I first started here, because it was a new setting and I didn't know how to answer the questions. It can still be stressful at times, but I enjoy being here and it makes me feel good to be able to help others."

Silva said the call center is planning to add three part-time employees soon for the busy times. Also, the call center is considering the addition of an online chat system to answer questions over the computer. And it's gearing up for fall registration with several training sessions about financial aid. Silva said the busiest day of the past year occurred the week before school started, when 1,500 calls came in during one day.

"We just had our birthday celebration and we still have the same momentum and a strong team like we did when we started a year ago," said Silva. "Now we're going to have to see how we do with the new things that have been tasked to us. We're looking forward to the next year of operation."


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